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Sufism in Kashmir

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There are different meanings of the word Sufi. Some believe that the word Sufi has been derived from the word ‘Suf’ meaning `the wool’

Adnan Shafi

Sufism is a mystical form of Islam, a school of practice that gives emphasis to the inward search for God and shuns materialism. It has produced some of the world’s most beloved literature, like the love poems of the 13th-century Iranian jurist Rumi. Sufism is a mystical form that Sufis practice and a Sufi is someone who believes in the kind of Islam known as Sufism.
There are different meanings of the word Sufi. Some believe that the word Sufi has been derived from the word ‘Suf’ meaning `the wool’. A woolen garment was a symbol of simplicity of life and renunciation of luxury. Some believe its origin is from “Ahl –us-Suffa” or the people of the bench.
The Sufis are united on the point that Allah is one, Eternal, All Knowing, All Powerful. The Sufis have the characteristics of having a spiritual leader whom they respect and obey with all devotion and dedication. They are also ready to sacrifice everything to be nearer to Allah, and they achieve perfection in everything.
They have absolute faith in Allah and their faith can not be shaken by anything. They achieve spiritual and mystical experiences by virtue of these qualities.
The valley of Kashmir is a land of Sufis who through their teachings have inspired the people here. It is due to these great souls that ignorance is absent and there is moral and spiritual illumination everywhere. Their education made the people to understand Allah and Prophet (SAW) and follow them with devotion and sincerity. These Sufis wrote poetry in Kashmiri also, and thereby widened the scope of Kashmiri language. In their hands the Kashmiri language developed, flourished and reached to us safe and sound.
Sufism is a mystical variation of Islam. By practicing Sufism, Sufis seek to have a close, personal experience of God. … Sufism simply includes more mysticism and rituals.
For centuries the Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir have lived together. The Kashmiri Muslims have been influenced by the Hindus, and the Hindus have been influenced by the Muslims.
Kashmir is the only place in India where Muslims have surnames such as ‘pandit’ and ‘bhat’. The Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims have a distinctive culture and way of living. Even the Sufis of Kashmir are of a special type.
How Sufism came to Kashmir is a long story. The famous Sufis of Kashmir are Sayyid Bulbul Shah (RA), Sayyid Ali Hamdani (RA), and Mir Mohammad Hamdani (RA). It is claimed that Hindu thought and religion greatly influenced Kashmiri Sufis. The result was that Kashmir produced Sufis with a different outlook. Some people call these sufis “Muslim rishis”.
Among the “Muslim rishis”, the most famous rishi is Sheikh-nur-ud-din (RA). Out of love and veneration, the Hindus and Muslims call him Nandirishi. The Kashmiri Pandits also call him Sahzanand.
The shrine of Nandrishi is locat.ed in Chrar-e-Sharief. This is a small village about five miles from Nagam. Both Hindus and Muslims go to this shrine to offer flowers.
It is difficult to say when Nandrishi was actually born. It is said by some that he was born in 1377 in a village called Kaimuh. People also say that Lalded nursed Nandrishi as a child. In addition to this, there are many other stories about him that are popular in Kashmir.
Many stories are also told about Nandrishi’s parents. Some say that his parents made a living by stealing and robbing, which made Nandrishi unhappy. But others say that his father, Salar Sanz, was a pious man.
It is said that Nandrishi left home when he was thirty years old He meditated for twelve years inside a cave. This cave was in a forest where he could not get much to eat. When Nandrishi completed his meditation, he spread his ideas among the Kashmiris.
Many Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims became Nandrishi’s disciples. They renounced the world and took shelter in a ‘ziyarath’. They gave up eating meat and observed celibacy. They devoted themselves completely to meditation in their ‘ziyarath’.
On their death, these rishis were buried in their ‘ziyaratsi’. Kashmiris have great reverence for these ziyarats and devotedly go there to place flowers on the graves. These shrines are still found in Kashmir. Two well- known shrines are in Aishmukam and Anantnag. Janakrishi lived in Aishmukam, and Rishmol lived in Anantnag. There are three famous shrines in Srinagar. Batmal, Thagbab Sahib, and RishiPir lived in these.
Out of all these rishis, Nandrishi is considered outstanding. That is why his sayings are uttered by Kashmiris with great reverence.
Kashmir, before the advent of Islam in the medieval period, was known as the land of Parvati or Rishi bhumi but later came to be called as “Peer Veer” meaning “an abode of Sufis and saints”.
The Valley has also provided fertile ground for the emergence of various Hindu (primarily Shaivites saints) and Sufis saints, who happened to play a crucial role in knitting the culture called ‘Kashmiriyat’. Kashmiriyat, which shaped the religious
Religious preachers who through their devotional teachings, encouraged with the notion of brotherhood and unity, furnished a solid cultural landscape to the people of Kashmir.

Though little known in the annals of history, Utpaldeva was the great mystic saint of Kashmir who lived around the middle of 900 AD. Utpaladeva’s philosophical teachings were as profound as Adi Shankaracharya’s. His poems which were sung while being in deep devotion became the philosophical doctrines of Kashmir Shaivism known as Trika system.
Bhagwan Gopinath was a mystic saint of 20th century born in Kashmir in India. Born as Gopinath Bhan, the saint never stepped out of Kashmir who largely lived the life of reclusion. Fondly called as Aghoreshwar by his contemporaries, he was also referred to as Jivanmukta and his spiritual state was described as the “Shambhavi avastha”. His spiritual status is such in Kashmiri cultural history that it can be compared to philosophers like Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Shri Aurobindo.
Lal Ded
Lal Ded was born in 1355 in Pandrethan to a Kashmiri Pandit family. She is very prominent. In Kashmir, some people consider her a poet, some consider her a holywoman and some consider her a sufi, a yogi, or a devotee of Shiva.
Some even consider her an avtar. But every Kashmiri considers her a wise woman. Every Kashmiri has some sayings of Lalla on the tip of his tongue. The Kashmiri language is full of her sayings.
Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims affectionately call her “Mother Lalla” or “Granny Lalla”. She is also called “Lallayogeshwari”. Some people call her Lalla, the mystic.
Rupa Bhawani
She was the second great mystic poet of 17th century. She had a great and deep experience of ups and downs of life. The worldly sufferings showed her the path of spiritual life. Her spiritual ‘Guru’ was her father Pandit Madhav Joo Dhar who initiated her into the mysteries and practices of yoga. She gave rich mystic poetry to Kashmiri language. In her poetry, we can find the influence of both Kashmir Shaivism and Islamic Sufism.
Abhinavagupta was a philosopher, mystic and aesthetician from Kashmir. … In his long life he completed over 35 works, the largest and most famous of which is Tantrāloka, an encyclopedic treatise on all the philosophical and practical aspects of Kaula and Trika (known today as Kashmir Shaivism).
It is claimed that Hindu thought and religion greatly influenced Kashmiri Sufis. The result was that Kashmir produced Sufis with a different outlook. Some people call these Sufis “Muslim rishis”.
(The columnist contributes to Kashmir Vision)

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