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Shi段 Sufis of Kashmir

By: Dr. Ejaz Husain Malek
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

The framework of devotion towards the Ahl al-bayt introduced by Mir Syed Ali Hamadani and his disciples was strengthened by the arrival of Shi段 Sufis, Sayyid Madani, Sayyid Hussain Rizvi Qumi, Sayyid Mahmud of Sabzawar and the party of Bayhaqi Sayyids during the reign of Sultan Sikandar (1389-1437). Their matrimonial alliance with Shah Mir dynasty gained them considerable political power. The Bayhaqi Sayyids arrived in Kashmir from the Shi段 region of Sabzawar. Their remnants in Jarja followed Shi段sm under taqqiya (dissimulation), but the political expediency in Kashmir brought them in confrontation with the Chaks, who were Shi段s. They did not, however, gave up their love and devotion for Ahl-i bayt, which was now so openly claimed by the followers of Mir Ali Hamadani during the recitation of Awrads. In Kashmir, they associated themselves with Hamadani痴 Kubraviya Silsila. The decline of Shah Mir Dynasty marked the rise of Chaks who had moved from Dardistan to Kashmir under their leader Lankar Chak in the reign of Suhadeva (r.1301-20).
In the broader frame work of Islam in Kashmir, modern scholars generally attribute the introduction of Shi段sm in Kashmir to the arrival of Shams置-Din Iraqi during the reign of Fatah Shah, creating an impression of total nonexistence of Shi段te Sufi missionaries of Kashmir before Iraqi, in the process appropriating the lesser talked about Shi段te Sufis who arrive during the reign of Sultan Sikander and Zainu値-Abidin in the larger Kubraviya framework and thereby Sunni Islam. However, Baharistan-i Shahi and Tuhfatul Ahbab, two main sources detailing upon the History of Shi段sm in Kashmir, do mention the role played by Shi段 Sufis, Sayyid Madani, Sayyid Husain Qumi, and Mulla Alam Ansari towards propagation of Islam. Here it becomes imperative to give a brief sketch of these early Shi段te Sufis of Kashmir and their missionary activities.
The first Shi段te Sufi to grace Kashmir with his auspicious presence was Saidu壇-Saadat, Amir Sayyid Muhammad Madani, known in valley as 溺adin Sahib. He emigrated from Medina along with his family during the reign of Sultan Sikander (r. 1389-1417). After a brief stay in Kashmir, he returned back to Transoxiana. On his arrival back in Kashmir along with the entourage of Sayyid Muhammad Hamadani, he made Rainawari in Srinagar his permanent abode and achieved fame for his oratory and debating skills. When Sultan Sikander came to know about his popularity, he paid a visit to him and requested for his residence closer to his capital city in Naushahra. However, Sayyid Madani instead moved to village Malmah (Pargana Bangil, District Badgam). He pursued his mission of propagating Shi段sm in Malmah winning most of the people of this area to his faith. Later Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin invited him back to Nowshehr (New City), offered him to live close to his imperial residence where the Sultan built a Khanqah for him. The Sultan frequently used to visit his Khanqah. Here he remained confined to his Khanqah, which was thronged by people of all persuasions. Not comfortable with the frequent flow of people to his Khanqah, the Sufi missionaries of Srinagar, who were Sunnis, conveyed their displeasure to the Sultan. To check the piety and high spiritual status of Sayyid Madani, which was responsible for his popularity, the Sultan invited him for a meal in the imperial palace. A variety of dishes were prepared and accordingly served in an assembly attended by Sufis and nobles of the Sultan. Sayyid Madani tasted all the different varieties of food that were presented to him except one dish, which he asked the host attendant to keep aside till all the people are done with their meal. When everyone present finished partaking food, the Sultan referring to Sayyid enquired about the reason for not making use of the particular dish. The Sayyid replied that this dish contained the flesh of some wild bird, which was not prepared in accordance with the Sharia. The Sultan was highly impressed by the spiritual high standard of the Sayyid. No one among the Sufis present knew which dish was not prepared according to Sharia, except the Sayyid. The Sayyid intended to build a mosque in Nowshehr where his devotees could offer prayers with him, but the plan never materialized. A modern historian observes that there remained an ambiguity on the faith Sayyid Madani preached in Kashmir, as Shi段s claimed him to have professed their faith, while Sunnis claimed him a 全unni. The fact remains that the Shi段tes of Malmah, where Sayyid Madani stayed for a considerable amount of time prior to his migration to Srinagar, ascribe the conversion of their descendants to Twelver Shi段sm to Sayyid Madani. Since, the contemporary sources include Madani among the disciples of Kubraviya Sufi Mir Muhammad Hamadani, whose love and reverence for Ahl al-bayt is so conspicuous in his writings, Lawrence without any further investigation categorizes him as a Kubraviya Sufi and therefore, essentially a Sunni. He betrays the understanding, that disciples of Hamadani included both Shi段 Sufis as well as Sunni divines. The strict boundaries that existed in the nineteenth century between Shi段 Sufis and Kubraviya Shafi段 Sufis didn稚 existed in fourteenth century. It was only after Iraqi propagated his Shi段 Sufi order on a broader scale that Orders began to restructure their identity, influence and spread, which resulted in the clear formation of sectarian boundaries in Kashmir. Another factor responsible for the immense awareness regarding faith, Order and sect was the policy of religious persecutions adopted by Mirza Haider. Had Madani been a Sunni or professed any other school of thought, he would not have propagated Shi段sm in the areas he visited, particularly Malmah. In Kashmir, the popularity of Kubraviya Silsila overshadowed all other Silsilas, so Madani might have considered it appropriate to enter into the Kubraviya camp, but that does dissociate him from the belief of which he was the first missionary in Kashmir. Having engaged himself in teaching and preaching for quite a considerable time, Sayyid Madani, died in 1445 AD. Shaikh Bahau壇-Din, a Kubraviya Sufi of Kashmir, led his funeral prayers according to Madani痴 will.
The reign of Sultan Zainu値-Abidin (r. 1420-70) witnessed arrival of a stream of Sufis of different persuasions and Sufi orders. Two important Shi段te Sufis, Sayyid Hussain Rizvi Qumi and Mulla Alam Ansari came to Kashmir during his reign.
Sayyid Hussain Rizvi Qumi arrived in Kashmir from Iranian city of Qum. Sultan Zainu値-Abidin received him warmly and assigned him madad-i ma誕sh grant at Zaingair for residential and preaching purpose. His fame in Kashmir rested on his high spiritual status and extreme piousness. He lived, preached and died at a place in Pargana Phag called Sa壇pora, a village in North Kashmir where his shrine stands as an exclusive and undisputed Shi段te shrine. This shrine proved a connecting factor, binding the Shi段tes of Sa壇pora with the Shi段tes of other parts of Kashmir, particularly during the birth anniversary (Urs) celebration of the Sayyid. Although historians who have recorded the missionary activities of Sufis in Kashmir, mention the importance of his shrine in Sa壇pora, Sopore for the Shi段s without any reference to the circumstances that convinced him to stay away from the grant assigned to him by Sultan in Zaingair, Srinagar and proceed without any support to Sa壇pora. We may not have details from contemporary sources to infer the cause for his deciding journey to one the remotest corners of the valley, but his missionary activities do inform us about the motive. At a time when Islam, particularly different variants of Sunnism were propagated by multitude of Sufis in the vicinities of Shahr (Srinagar), Sayyid Hussain Qumi must have contemplated the futility of his mission amid Sufis whose stature was much beyond his comprehension and popularity, unlike Shamsu壇-Din Iraqi who was the most popular Sufi missionary of his time in Kashmir. At the same time, it would have been very difficult to persuade people who had been incorporated into the Islamic camp by the dedicated efforts of Kubravi Sufis in and around Srinagar to follow the doctrines of another sect whose missionary while associating himself with the same Kubraviya order preached a different doctrine. To prevent this contradiction, and hostility for his intentions, Sayyid Hussain Qumi decided on Sa壇pora, for both distance and influence. It was both far from Srinagar, and was to a great extent outside missionary clout of Sufis of the period. His success in introducing Shi段sm in the back of beyond, an area away from the active involvement of Sufis, proved productive for the early Shi段sm. After his death, his shrine not only unified Shi段tes who thronged to celebrate their reverence for Sayyid and his contribution, but also exemplified his farsightedness in introducing a school of Islam which was least known to the people who were witnessing a transition from one belief system to another, completely different and based on an ideology of equality between man and man. He worked as a Kubraviya saint to bank upon the reverence of people for Amir Sayyid Ali Hamadani and Mir Muhammad Hamadani, but preached Shi段te Islam.
Mulla Jawad Ansari, an erudite scholar and an accomplished alim of Shi段 jurisprudence, came to valley along with Sayyid Hussain Rizvi Qumi in the first quarter of the fifteenth century during the reign of Sultan Zainu値-Abidin. His unceasing efforts towards dissemination and consolidation of Shi段sm were carried forward by his successors Mulla Muhammad Ansari, Mulla Fazal Ali, Mulla Muhammad Jawad Ansari, Mulla Abdullah Ansari, and Moulvi Haider Ali Ansari. All these constitute imminent personalities of Ansari dynasty who propagated Shi段sm by popularizing Shi段te customs, practices and festivals like commemoration of martyrdom of Hussain in the month of Muharram, celebration of Nauroz and other practices. The Ansari dynasty whose foundation was laid by Mulla Alam Ansari functioned as one the main planks in bringing Shi段sm from the remote corners of the valley like Malmah and Sa壇pora to the vicinity of Shahr (Srinagar). Alam Ansari had selected 腺arath (Sopore) as his permanent abode in Kashmir, which is also his final resting place and the symbol of his missionary activities, the members of the Ansari dynasty ensured the communication of his missionary attitude to the localities of Srinagar, like Zadibal which later became the main center of Shi段sm with the arrival of Shamsu壇-Din Iraqi.

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