Sufism in Kashmir

Print edition : December 16, 2011

Two substantial works on the rich Sufi tradition in the cradle of Sufism in South Asia.

A FEW years ago an overly articulate Islamic scholar lectured to a seminar in Srinagar on Sufi Islam, with implied digs at the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. He got deserved reprimands. Sufis in Kashmir very much share the people's aspirations, and militancy enjoys popular support. Hence the mammoth funeral processions of slain militants. Undoubtedly, there are elements who do not share the Kashmiri ethos, especially the guest militants.

In the entire subcontinent, Jammu and Kashmir has the richest reservoir of the Sufi tradition, a tradition which is an integral part of the people's ethos and which informs their lives.

Dr Mohammad Ishaq Khan is a highly respected academic with substantial works to his credit. His book is a most informative compilation of biographical notes on the Sufis of Kashmir, arranged in alphabetical order. Each entry provides information of their antecedents, site of burial and the tradition and the school to which they belonged. Kashmir has been the cradle of Sufism in South Asia. An introduction describes the growth of Sufism in Islam. At least two Sufi Orders ( silsilahs) Kubrawiyya and Naqshbandiyya first took their roots in the Valley. Sufism in Kashmir imbibed Hindu and Buddhist influences. This is particularly true of the indigenous order of the Muslim Reshis. Tombs of Sufi saints draw devotees of all faiths. The author aptly characterises it as a unique form of devotional culture in Kashmir within the bosom of Islam.

Kashmiri Muslims offerprayers outside the shrine of the Sufi saint Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani in Srinagar.-

Badruddin Muqeem's work covers The City of Temples (Jammu), The land of the Gompas (Ladakh) as well as the Dargahs in the Valley. Those in Jammu are not overlooked, nor are the ancient temples of Kashmir. What is particularly interesting is his description of the caves and temples in the mountain area.

There is an excellent bibliography. One hopes the next edition will have illustrations as well. They will enrich the work.

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