The Glory of Sufism in Kashmir

“Old is gold,” is an English proverb that held true yesterday and would continue to hold true today and tomorrow.

Today let’s share our views and thoughts on the hoary and priceless culture of Sufism in Kashmir. While there is no doubt that the Heaven on Earth, Kashmir located in the lap of snow-clad mountains is world renowned for its apple orchards, the shade of fallen Chinar, lush green grass meadows, Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam valleys, magnificent Dal lake, water bodies like Jhelum, Indus and Chenab, Mughal gardens, world famous elegant Pashmina shawl; it is equally well known for the Sufi culture.
The presence of Sufism in Kashmir has added the sparkle of tolerance to the beauty of the valley.

The word Sufi is derived from the Arabic word ‘al-tasawwuf’ adverting to the inwardness or the inner mystical dimensions of Islam.. Sufism’s essential message, a message holding true for all Sufi saints, is this; ‘to remember God and serve others’.
“Love is the divine essence in man and is due to God alone. saidHazrat Inayat Khan one of the most respected and honoured preceptors of Sufism..
A Sufi’s path is a path of love. Islamic mystics are called Sufis which includes an allusion to the softness of ‘Suf’ i.e. “wool” and their way of life is Sufism.

The Glory of Sufism in Kashmir
Ancient Kashmir has been a protected place of stay and meditation for the saints, Sufis, Rishis and other devoted worshipers of God. History suggests that these saints belonged to different religions that include Shaivism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Sufism evolved and developed a credo among Muslims which emphasised bonds of love with and surrender to the almighty.The philosophy spread along the valley after the arrival of Sufis from Central Asia. There is a strong belief that eclectic practices came to define a Sufi and the growth of Sufism in Kashmir.

Haven’t we heard beautiful stories of communal harmony? For centuries the Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir have lived together peacefully. The Muslims of Kashmir had a strong influence on Hindus, and vice-versa. During the rule of Chaks and Shahmiris there existed six orders of Sufism which were Qadiria, Sahurwardia, Kibrawiya, Naqashbandia, Noorbakhshia and Rishia. While the first five had arrived from Iran and Turkistan, the sixth one was originally from Kashmir and sought to combine the very best elements of the different religious orders.
The beautiful valley of Kashmir exerted a special attraction on the Sufis saint sat whose shrines, people flock in large numbers to pay homage. The most dominant influence on the Kashmiri identity, in terms of our Kashmiriyat, is that of the ‘Rishi’ order of Sufis. According to a scholar: “Where Sufis are Rishis and Rishis are Sufis”. The term `Rishi’ itself is clearly a derivation from Sanskrit and Indian traditions, though some Medieval Muslim scholars have tried to show that it is derived from the Persian word raish or rish meaning the “feathers or wings of a bird.”
Among the Muslim rishis, the most famous rishi is SheikhNur-ud-din (RA). Out of a feeling of deep respect and love, both the Hindus and Muslims call him ‘Nandrishi’. The shrine of Nandrishi is located in Chrar-e-Sharief, a small village about five miles from Nagam. Both Hindus and Muslims gather at this shrine to make floral offerings.. He was known not only as a Saint, Rishi, and Spiritual head of Kashmir but also as a great writer and poet who, through his verses, taught Kashmiris the importance of Islamic virtues of justice, sincerity, equality, truth, morality and spirituality.
It is also believed that Sheikh nurtured the ‘Koshur’ language that plays a role in our identity formation.

“We belong to the same parents.
Then why this difference?
Let Hindus and Muslims(together)
Worship God alone.
We came to this world like partners.
We should have shared our joys
and sorrows together.”

The Sufi traditions of Jammu and Kashmir still play an important role in the lives of people in the region for whom the traditions connote an understanding of the world in all its spiritual dimensions.

We shall revisit our roots and also talk more about Sufism in Kashmir in our next articles.