Of the multiple factors behind the emergence and development of Islam, Muslims, Islamic ethos and culture in Kashmir, (that covers a period of seven centuries or so), the role of Muslim Sufis and scholars (both indigenous and foreign) accrues an exceptional significance. With Sayyid ‘Abdul Raḥmān alias Bulbul Shah (RA)–the first recorded emigrant Sufi in Kashmir during 14th century –followed by Sayyid Muḥammad Isfahāni alias Jānbāz Walī, Sayyid Aḥmad Kirmānī, Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn Bukhārī and others, the mystic valley–Kashmir began to witness the arrival of a long array of Sufis/scholars especially from Central Asia and Persia (14th century onwards). These emigrant Sufi/scholars, known for their expertise in Islamic religious/legal sciences (‘Ulūm al-Dīn) and spiritual discipline (Taṣawwuf), played a seminal role in propagating and sustaining the culture of Islamic values, learning and spirituality besides contributing variedly to the social, cultural, ethical, political and economic domains of the society. Such has been their impact that the religious, political and social history of medieval Kashmir would remain deficient without referring to their role and activities in the then Kashmiri society.
Among the leading medieval Sufis/scholars who significantly contributed in reshaping and moulding the society of Kashmir on Islamic religious and cultural pattern was Mir Sayyid ‘Alī of Hamadan (Iran) alias Shah-i Hamadan or Amīr-i Kabīr, considered by the Kashmiri Muslims as an unrivalled benefactor of the valley. He along with his band of (hundreds of) disciples, associates and contemporary Sufis undoubtedly appear as an important reference in every attempt that tries to unveil the social, economic or religious history of medieval Kashmir. Unsurprisingly, numerous attempts have been made at academic level, over the past decades, to unfold and understand the different aspects pertaining the life and activities of Shah-i Hamadan besides his magnanimous contributions to and impact on the society of medieval Kashmir. Exploring and explicating the diverse facets of such a religiously/spiritually and historically important figure (Shah-i Hamadan) is highly relatable in the current scenario for few reasons, like; Primarily, as a reference point, it invites the modern-day technocratic mind, that has been otherwise tied down with undue materialistic pursuits at the cost of ethical and spiritual standards–to explore its latent metaphysical and spiritual faculties for gaining an holistic understanding of the purpose of life and reaching to the Ultimate Reality and thus, to reconsider and revisit the worldview that has gained currency in the modern age. Secondly, it substantially adds to the modern-day academic pursuits of exploring the social, political and religious history of Kashmir with an inter-disciplinary approach, thereby paving ways for an easy understanding of the phenomenon of “spread of Islam in Kashmir.” Furthermore, such attempts of interpreting, re-interpreting or re-stating themes of the medieval/historical epoch with academic approach helps the modern-day researchers and academics to resuscitate their connection with the intellectual, pedagogic, moral and spiritual legacy and derive possible solutions from them vis-a-vis the contemporary problems facing the humanity.
Keeping in view the relevance of this theme, the stature of Shah-i Hamadan and the significance of highlighting his multidimensional role in the medieval Kashmiri society, certain works of considerable academic credibility have seen the light of the day over the recent decades. Among these, the notable works include, Shāh-i Hamadān: Ḥayāt Aur Kārnāmay (Srinagar:1935) by Prof. Shams al-Di̇̄n Aḥmad, Sayyid Ali Hamadani (Delhi:1987) by Sayyidah Ashraf Zafar, Religious Thought of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (Delhi:1992) by Dr. Hayat Amir, Mir Saiyid Ali Hamadani and Kubraviya Sufi Order in Kashmir (New Delhi:2003) by Dr. Surayia Gull. With the same intent, Mir Imtiyaz Afreen, a promising writer and intellectual based in Kashmir, has recently brought out his Edited volume (in Urdu), [proceedings of the seminar “Shah-i Hamadan Ḥayāt Aur Khidmāt”, held on 24th March, 2019 in Budgam, Kashmir by Raza-E Mustafa Foundation] Kashmir Mayṇ Islāmī Inqilāb Aur Ḥaḍrat Shah-i Hamadan (The Islamic Revolution in Kashmir and Ḥaḍrat Shah-i Hamadan) [published by: Raza-E-Mustafa Foundation, Budgam, 2021, 370 pages]. This voluminous title embraces a series of forty-three articles apart from some profound preliminary reflections–from accredited researchers, religious scholars, academicians and intellectuals–underscoring the different facets of the life, ideas, role, activities and message of Shah-i Hamadan. The work reflects an attempt to impart his (Shah-i Hamadan’s) character a suitable standing with an all-embracing approach and proper contextualization on the broader canvas of Islamic (intellectual, cultural and religious) history in Kashmir.
The “Introduction”, by Dr Naushad Alam Chishti (Aligarh) – an expertly and succinct summary of the contents of the book –greatly helps a reader in estimating the subject matter comprising this title. The book receives approbation from some acclaimed academicians (including, Prof(s)–Sayyid ‘Alīm Ashraf Jā’isī, Ghulām Rasūl Malik, Khwāja M. Akramuddin) and religious scholars (like, Mubārak Ḥusayn Miṣbāḥī and Zeeshān Ahmad Miṣbāḥī) in the first section “Tathurāt/Expressions” that precedes the articles/content discussing the main theme. These erudites, in their precise pieces, have tried to elucidate and accentuate the rationale, relevance and significance behind producing academic writings on the multidimensional role and activities of Shah-i Hamadan and the indelible impressions of his movement on the medieval society of Kashmir. Of these briefings that introduce the personality of Shah-i Hamadan and underscore the relevance of his teachings and activities in the current scenario, Prof. Ghulām Rasūl Malik and Mubārak Ḥusayn Miṣbāḥī’s appraisals are worth consideration. The following section, “Awrāq-i Ḥayāt (Memoir)”, include biographical account (a brief chronological record of his important life events by Imtiyaz Afreen as Shah-i Hamadan Ba yak Naẓar; Shah-i Hamadan: Sawāniḥ Ḥayāt by Nazir Naqashbandi and Shah-i Hamadan: Ḥayāt Aur Khidmāt by Mufti ‘Abdul Hamid Na‘īmī ) of Shah-i Hamadan, based on the relevant historical sources and drafted in academic style, reflect genuine attempts of formulating the context for the subsequent discussions related to the ideas, activities and teachings of Shah-i Hamadan. Although, the content of these pieces, by major, is repetitive and follows the usual descriptive style, yet, serving as a timely “context” (for the study), imparts its placement a significant function in the text.
The subsequent section as “Afkār-o-Khayālat (Thoughts and Ideas)”, a composition of twenty-three articles/papers, forms a substantial portion of the main discussion unfolding the multidimensional personality of Shah-i Hamadan in light of his ideas, contributions and activities. The opening two piece in this section “Kashmir Mayṇ Islāmī Inqilāb Aur Shah-i Hamadan” and “ Shah-i Hamadan ‘Aṣr-i Hāḍir Kay Tanāẓur Mayṇ” by M. I. Afreen (the editor) serve as an exhaustive introduction for this text.
The author attempts at narrating (in light of some pertinent sources) the all-encompassing “Islamic revolution” brought about in Kashmir by Shah-i Hamadan with an emphasis on its impact on the religious, political, spiritual, moral, economic and cultural spheres of the society. Besides, the author augments this narration with a discussion on the multi-faceted personality of Shah-i Hamadan, his political ideas, his views on Iḥsān or Taṣawwuf (spiritual path), his contribution toward the Muslim unity and his impact on the local yet highly influential ascetic/spiritual strand, the Rīshiyya, of Kashmir. The following article, “ Rūḥānī Inqilāb Kay Naqīb: Sayyid Mir ‘Alī Hamadānī” by Prof Akhtarul Wās‘I, although a repetitive narration, reflects a precise and an expertly presentation of Shah-i Hamadan’s methodology of popularizing Islam in Kashmir especially his cordial approach toward the Salāṭīn, the Ruling elite.
A meticulous and probably the first thematic discussion in the text “Iqbal Aur Shah-I Hamadan” by Prof G. R. Malik unfolds, in light of Iqbal’s poem on Shah-i Hamadan in Jāved Nāmah, the impact of Shah-i Hamadan on Iqbal as well as the resemblance of ideas/thoughts between them. Prof. Hayat Amir Husayni in his “Shah-i Hamadan Ka Taṣawwur-i ‘Ibādat”, has further embellished the section with an exhaustive, academic and explanatory discussion on the concept of worship/Ibādah in Islam and its elucidation as per Shah-i Hamadan. The content has been delivered in a thematic and philosophical tone and the author has attempted to demystify all the related aspects of the theme encompassing the discussion in thirty-four points with an extensive and studious elaboration. Two subsequent articles, “Shah-i Hamadan: Umarā’ Aur ‘Ulāma’-O-Ṣūfiyā’ Kī Rahnuma’ī Wa Iṣlāḥ” and “Shah-i Hamadan Ka Maslak-O-Mashrab” by Dr Abdul Quddus Khan considerably extend the ambit of the text.
The first article, although with a substantial repetitive narration, brings to limelight the efforts of Shah-i Hamadan in reforming and rectifying the rulers, religious scholars and Sufis of his age. Khan’s subsequent article, an industrious work, provides an analysis of Shah-i Hamadan’s approach and standpoint with regard the different schools of jurisprudence as well as Sufi methodologies and ideologies. He has tried to underscore Shah-i Hamadan’s emphasis on the universal character of Islam and his preference to work for the unity of Muslims than to spreading a specific ideology or school. This write-up depicts him a broad-minded religious erudite with a moderate approach toward the diverse Islamic juridical or ideological schools as well as different Sufi ideologies or methodologies.
Ghulam Hasan Husnu’s article “Shah-i Hamadan Ka Safar-i Kashmir wa Baltistan”, richly supplied with references, offers a finely articulated academic narration of Shah-i Hamadan’s visits to Kashmir and different regions in Baltistan. Although, the subject matter, by major, is a reiterative narration, yet, a reader enjoys some crucial analyses and insights pertaining the strenuous religious preaching undertook by Shah-i Hamadan.
The following write-up “Shah-i Hamadan Baḥaythiyat-i Sayyāḥ-i ‘Alam”, by Khurshid Ahmad Qānūngo, presents a brief repetitious description (without proper referencing) of the travels of Shah-i Hamadan as a part of his mission of religious proselytization. Subsequently, in his, “Shah-i Hamadān Kī Bāzyāft”, Dr M. Maroof Shah (a renowned Kashmiri intellectual) laments on the negligence of Kashmiri populace toward promulgating and understanding Shah-i Hamadan’s thoughts, ideas and teachings with an holistic approach. For its expression, rather than producing a usual academic write-up, the author enumerates some grievances (for neglecting Shah-i Hamadan’s message/ideas) and provides many viable suggestions or propositions attempting to invite the attention of the intellectuals, academics, State-Officials and religious organizations toward revisiting and propagating Shah-Hamadan’s works, ideas/thoughts, philosophy and teachings to sustain his legacy rather than merely displaying an emotional attachment with the name “Amīr-i Kabīr” or “Shah-i Hamadan”. Ghulam Rasul Dahlawi’s “Shah-i Hamadan Aur Un Kī Madhhabī Fikr” (translated by the editor, M. I. Afreen), by major a brief and repetitive content emphasizes on revisiting the intellectual and mystic legacy of Shah-i Hamadan besides the relevance of Shah-i Hamadan’s worldview in the contemporary era. Yaqub Muḥammad Brāhowī’s “Shah-i Hamadan Say Mansūb Āthār: Taḥrīfāt Aur Un Kay Athrāt”, reflects a critical and analytical treatment of the authenticity of some works on and ascribed to Shah-i Hamadan. His method and analyses in discrediting the ascription of Shah-i Hamadan with Shiism (Shia ideology) seems plausible with considerable academic credence.
The subsequent five articles have been contributed by Mir Imtiyaz Afreen (editor of the current work) and of these, in the first one “Shah-i Hamadan Kī Madhhabī Rawādārī …” the author critically analyzes the allegations of religious intolerance levied on Shah-i Hamadan and concomitantly accentuates his tolerant, peaceful and broadminded attitude in the multicultural and pluralistic society of medieval Kashmir. The author’s argument, that it was Shah-i Hamadan’s spiritual merit, sublime moral fibre and humane outlook that paved the ways of mass conversion for him, appears conclusive and credible. In his subsequent article, “Shah-i Hamadan Aur Niṣāb-i Ta‘līm”, Afreen attempts to look out for the pedagogical structure, curriculum and methodology promoted by Shah-i Hamadan in the medieval seminary educational setup. The author further in “Aql-o Shu‘ūr Kī Māhiyat: Risālah-i ‘Aqliya Kī Roshnī Mayṇ” discusses “the intellect”, its form and other related aspects in light of Shah-i Hamadan’s Risālah-i ‘Aqliya. Go through these articles a reader can easily gauge Shah-i Hamadan’s girth in the intellectual, religious, educational, spiritual and philosophical domains.
Another brief write-up “Khānqāh-i Mu‘allah: Kashmir Kā Thaqāfatī Wa Ruḥānī Markaz-o Mahwar”, by Afreen highlights Khānqāh-i Mu‘allah as a centre with established historical, cultural and spiritual significance in Kashmir. Introducing a novel concept under discussion, in his “Dabistān-i Futūt Aur Haḍrat-i Shah-i Hamadan” Afreen elucidates the concept of “Futūt” (designating a sublime level of character and mystic quality), its understanding and practicality in Shah-i Hamadan’s spiritual discipline in light of his Risālah-i Futūtiyah. “Ta‘līmat-i Shah-i Hamadan: Mu‘āṣir ‘Ālamī Manẓar Nāmah Kī Roshnī Mayṇ” by Tanveer Hayat bringing under limelight the relevance of Shah-i Hamadan’s thought and idea vis a vis the contemporary challenges facing the world, reflects a meticulous study although some opening statements of the author seem questionable (especially, undermining the role of Sufi missionaries prior to Shah-i Hamadan). The author mainly relies on his magnum opus Zakhīratul Mulūk to propose solutions to the contemporary challenges (like, unwarranted materialism, depression, violence, hatred and religious intolerance). His exploration of the concepts like global peace, human rights dialogue, and good governance in view of Shah-i Hamadan’s thought and ideology is a timely and relevant academic investigation. Junefa Bilal describes Shah-i Hamadan’s contribution to the medieval economic structure of Kashmir enumerating his efforts toward introducing and developing varied skills, arts and crafts in Kashmir (like Carpet and Shawl industries, stone, copper and silver works, paper mashie, calligraphy, embroidery and bookbinding). Though the article chiefly relies on the secondary and tertiary sources yet it provides an exhaustive panorama for understand Shah-i Hamadan’s role “as a reviver of economy” in medieval Kashmir. Shah-i Hamadan’s role in establishing and sustaining the edifice of Islamic culture, learning and civilization in Kashmir forms the main content of M. Shafi Bhat’s narrative, “Islāmī Tehzeeb Kay Farōg Mayṇ Shah-i Hamadan Kā Kirdār”. However, lacking a deep and critical approach, major content of this article displays an introductory repetition of historical facts and the proposed or required information has been summed-up in a brief statement. With the same narrative style, M. Yaseen Kambay in a succinct write-up “ Kashmir Aur Shah-i Hamadan” narrates the much repeated account of the arrival of Shah-i Hamadan and his role in Kashmir besides praising the beauty of Kashmir’s natural verdure as well as the mystic qualities and soulful character of the populace.
Dr Sartaj A. Sofi’s attempt to underscore the prevalence and spiritual/affective attachment of the Kashmiris with the Awrād-i Fatḥiyyah (of Shah-i Hamadan)in “Ahl-i Kashmir Kī Awrād-i Fatḥiyyah Kay Sāth Wābastigī” depicts a rhetorical approach (as adopted in most of the articles of the book), embellished with encomiums and historical accounts lacking any analytical treatment.
The author’s endeavour to authenticate the significance of Awrād as a spiritual panacea for the masses is rewarding. Lacking a proper methodology and bereft of a critical approach, Shahida Akhter’s “Shah-i Hamadan Kay Siyāsī Afkār: Zakhīrat-ul-Mulūk Kay Ḥawālay Say” reflects an exploration of the political ideas of Shah-i Hamadan in light of his Zakhīrat-ul-Mulūk with a repeated narrative style.
The following section “Adabiyat (Literary Contribution of Shah-i Hamadan)” constitutes eight articles reflecting an expertly and academic treatment of the literary contribution of Shah-i Hamadan. These writings invite the attention of intellectuals, academicians and researchers for a further meticulous study of the works of Shah-i Hamadan. Prof. Quddus Javed’s “Shah-i Hamadan Ki Ghazal Ka Ta‘miri Kirdar” depicts a fine literary endeavour to examine literary complexities and splendours in the poetry (Ghazals in his Chihal Asrār) of Shah-i Hamadan and Prof. Ghulam Rasul Malik’s (Chihal Asrar: Ta‘āruf wa Tajziyah) analytical survey of Chihal Asrār is equally interesting and appealing for the literati. Similarly, Prof. Hameed Nasim Rafiabadi’s “Risālah-i Khawāṭiriyah” precise introduction of the subtle concepts of Risālah-i Khawāṭiriyah of Shah-i Hamadan and Dr Tanveer Hayat’s description of some significant aspects of the Maktūbāt-i Amīriya (letters of Shah-i Hamadan) in “Maktūbāt-i Shah-i Hamadan Kay Kuch Numāyāṇ Pehlū” furnish novel insights to the readers. In particular, his refutation of the recently launched propaganda of ascribing the Maktūbāt of Shah-i Hamadan with Shaykh Yaḥyā Manerī is appreciable. Mufti Ibrahim Misbahi’s critical and analytical study of Zakhīrat-ul-Mulūk (in “ Zakhirat-ul-Mulūk: Taḥqīqī wa Tajziyātī Muṭāla‘a”) and Fayaz Ahmad Yatoo’s introduction of “Risālah-i Ḥifẓān: Ek Mutala‘a” supply essential findings with regards the thought and ideology of Shah-i Hamadan. “Awrād-i Fatḥiyyah: Mukhtasar Ta‘āruf” by Dr Zulfiqar Siddiqi and Mir Imtiyaz Afreen’s “Awrād-i Fatḥiyyah: Waẓīfah-i Tawḥīd” represent scholarly attempts at introducing and emphasizing on the subtle, spiritual and doctrinal significance of the hymns of this invaluable gift from Shah-i Hamadan for the Kashmiris.
Finally, nine short and succinct statements in “Paighāmāt (Messages/Teachings)” by renowned religious scholars and intellectuals emphasizing on the role, contribution, erudition and spirituality of Shah-i Hamadan besides his impact and favours made on Kashmiri society, culminate this timely and studious volume on the benefactor of Kashmir, Shah-i Hamadan.
An overall assessment reveals that the work is a valuable academic contribution to the study of the personality, role and contribution of Shah-i Hamadan to medieval Kashmir. Although many articles display a usual, non-academic and rhetorical approach, yet some articles accrue considerable academic credence embellished with proper critical and analytical methodology supplying profound insights pertaining the themes under study.
The book is highly recommended for academicians, intellectuals, religious scholars, researchers, students and partially to general readers and delivers highly relevant and interesting stuff to be studied and reflected upon.
By: Dr. Mohammad Irfan Shah