|How did Islam come to Kashmir?
“It came through the peaceful missionary preaching of the Sufis,” comes the answer.
Sufis have been universally credited with the peaceful propagation of Islam around the world. An Islamic legend tells us that there was a king in Kashmir, at an unknown point in time, who had no religion. One day, he wished to adopt a religion. Both Muslims and Hindus came to convince him. Their contradictory views left him rather confused, and resolved that, “‘he would embrace the religion of the first man he would meet in the street after coming out of his house the next morning” [Baharistan-I-Shahi (an anonymously 17th-century Persian book on the history of Kashmir, translated by Prof. K. N. Pundit), Chapter 2]. And it was a dervish [Sufi master], whom he encountered first the next morning, and there he became a Muslim, and Kashmir became Islamic.
…This impression, that was peacefully propagated in Kashmir and around the world by the Sufis, is universally entertained by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars and historians alike.
This paradigm is being successfully and exclusively propagated despite the fact that available historical records give an opposite picture.
It is hard to know when Islamic rule was established in Kashmir. Muhammad bin Qasim was in the preparation for an invasion of Kashmir in 715. Thereafter, Kashmir suffered a number of Islamic invasions; Sultan Mahmud, the master barbarian (although idolized by Muslims), had also led a failed expedition there. Caliph al-Mansur (r. 755–74) had sent an expedition under Hasham bin Amru for waging holy war against Hindu territories. Amongst many places, between Kandahar and Kashmir, he conquered, he “subdued Kashmir and took many prisoners and slave” [Elliot & Dawson, History of India as Told by Its Historians (it contains experts from Islamic chronicles), Vol. I, p. 122–23,203]. In 1033, Sultan Mahmud’s not-so-illustrious son, Sultan Masud I, made up for his illustrious father’s failure by launching “an attack on the fort of Sursuti in Kashmir. The entire garrison was put to the sword, except the women and children, who were carried away as slaves.”
While it is hard to establish which of these invasions established Islamic rule in Kashmir, the Sufis, Islam’s alleged prophets of peace, however had a prominent role in its Islamization, but it was a barbaric one.
About conversion of the masses to Islam in Kashmir, we get an idea of it around 1371 or 1381 CE, when Sayyid Ali Hamdani, a famous Sufi saint, arrived in Kashmir. The first thing he did was to build his khanqah [lodge or ashram] on the site of “a small temple which was demolished…” [Baharistan, p. 36]. Before his coming to Kashmir, the reigning Sultan Qutbud-Din paid little attention to enforcing Islamic laws. In the tolerant local culture, Muslims at all levels of the society—including the Sultan, the Qadis [Qazi]—had all tolerantly and comfortably submerged themselves in the Hindu culture and customs of Kashmir [ibid, p. 37].
But Sufi saint Sayyid Hamdani was horrified by the un-Islamic practices of Kashmiri Muslims, and forbade this laxity and tried to revive orthodoxy. The reigning Sultan Qutbud-Din tried to adopt Islamic orthodoxy in his personal life, but “failed to propagate Islam in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of Amir Sayyid Ali Hamdani” [ibid]. As a result, the Sufi saint left Kashmir because of his reluctance to live in a land dominated by the idolatrous culture, customs and creed.
Later on, his son Amir Sayyid Muhammad, another great Sufi saint, came to Kashmir during the reign of the famous idol-breaker, Sultan Sikander. Sikander was not such a barbarian until the arrival of holy Sufi saint Sayyid Muhammad, who prodded the Sultan into enforcing the Islamic code in his domain. Unlike Sultan Qutbud-Din, Sikander agreed to the Sufi saint’s instruction. Sikander and Sayyid Muhammad, thus, formed an alliance to wipe out all signs of idolatry and its professors from Kashmir.
According to Muhammad Farishtah (d. 1614) [History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, Vol. IV, 1997 imprint, p. 268], a historian of Delhi Sultan, Sikandar issued an order:
According to another 17th-century Persian chronicle, HM Chadurah’s Tarikh-I-Kashmir, Sikandar “was constantly busy in annihilating the infidels and destroyed most of the temples…” [trans. Razia Bano, Delhi, 1991, p. 55].
Thereupon, “the entire community of infidels and polytheists in Kashmir was coerced into conversion to Islam at the point of the sword. This is one of the major achievements of Malik Kaji Chak,” adds the proud author of Baharistan-i-Shahi [p. 117].