Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, KNB
The Valley of Kashmir has been fortunate enough to entertain both Semitic and Non-Semitic religions and traditions. The inhabitants of the Valley were receptive to the religions founded in Indian subcontinent that included both Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam that was an alien religion was also received with open arms. Islam in Kashmir did not spread through the proselytizing efforts of a Muslim zealot king, but the peaceful missionary efforts of Sufis and Rishis resulted in the spread of the new faith that led to the conversion of Kashmiris to the new creed. The adherents of the previous faiths including Hindus and Buddhists both survive in different parts of the present state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Sufis who belonged to different orders including Suharwardi and Kubrawi who visited Kashmir bringing forth the message of Islam weren’t able to reach to the common masses due to linguistic and other barriers. Their message of Islam and its influence remained confined to certain sections of the society. Their brief visits and stays did restrict the proselytization process. Sufism as a path to global peace and its role in promoting peace in pain and violence-hit areas like Kashmir is well-recognized fact.
Islam in Kashmir could not escape the influence of its predecessors, particularly the Islam as expounded and propagated by Sufis. Sufism or more appropriately Tasawuff had been influenced by other traditions and faiths before it entered the Valley. In the Valley the Sufism developed an indigenous trait, tradition and order known as Rishism. This indigenous Kashmiri order of Sufism, i.e. Rishism assimilated, got influenced and carried forward some principles and practices of Hinduism and Buddhism while all these Rishis were Muslims. Other Rishis existed before coming of Islam too, but the credit for consolidating, evolving and propagating it as an order goes to Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani or Nundrishi better known as Sheikh ul Alam to Kashmiris. He is considered to be founder of the Rishi order of saints which deeply influenced many great mystics like Hamza Makhdoom, Resh Mir Sàeb, Shamas Faqir till present day.
The different facets of Sheikh ul Alam’s multi-dimensional personality come to the fore and are manifested by his poetic verses. He used his poetry as tool to spread the knowledge of absolute. His poetry is commonly known as Shrukhs. Nundrishi deals with issues that relate to God, transcendental truth, Prophet, rishis, social justice, human relations, women, Kashmir, communal harmony, human nature, rituals, exploitation in the name of religion, the hypocrisy of Brahmin and Mullah. These Rishis always stood for Communal harmony, love for all humanity and Social Justice. Thus said Nuruddin Noorani about Communal Harmony
Children of the same parents,
When will Hindus and Muslims cut down the tree of dualism?
When will God be pleased with them and grant them his Grace?
We all came into this world as brethren
One lives in a palace, another in a hut
Still as brothers we came here all,
But now we are strangers and foes to each other
O God! When will this ever cease?
He further says
We belong to same parents,
Then why this difference?
Let Hindus and Muslims worship God alone.
We came into this world like partners.
We should have shared our joys and sorrows together.
Though the Rishis were concerned more about union with transcendental divine reality and Hereafter but they were not unconcerned, escapist monastics. They did undertake welfare activities and social reform. Sheikh ul Alam doesn’t turn a blind eye to the factual realities and injustices happening around. He launches a crusade and tirade against abuse of religion, discrimination, casteism, inequality and poverty. He calls people towards following the path laid down by Islam whose egalitarian values of Justice, Equality, welfare, love, Care for the poor, he tries to inculcate among the people, through the medium of his poetry
Koul Mo Lagie Rangan Tey Sangan
Koul Mo Hangan lagney Aaw
Thou Art not born to frame factions and federations
Thou art not born to boast racial superiorities
While speaking against casteism he states
Yeth Dunyahes Zaat Haweeth Kya Miley
Ghasi Chak Adijan Yeli Khaakh Miley
Earn not thou anything in boasting thy rank and file
Thy complex configuration will be absorbed in soil and dust
Sheikh ul Alam seems to be brutally honest in his vehement criticism against those who exploit religion and befool people particularly the clergy class among Hindus and Muslims
Maley Chey Khushaal Hadeyes Tey Saalas
Sheikh Gayey Maalas tey Maachas Matey
Priests art pleasured with favors and banquets
Sheikhs do amock after wealth and self indulgence
Alastu Buzith Hatukh Pathey
Kaaloo Balaa Tatey Dopukh Ney
Shaman Khewan Maaz Keho Baatey
Brahmin laagith Baatin Ney Kehney
Tympanic art the signals of Lord but tail turned remained they
Verily did not they surrender to his omnipotence
Engaged art they in appetitive trails of broiled rice thus
Apparently Brahmin figured but intently cipher they art (P-107)
The exploitation and abuse of religion still continues at the hands of ignorant Mullah and greedy Brahmin, about whom Sheikh ul Alam has explained in his verses centuries ago. The only need for us is to rediscover his message that now has been hijacked by the same Mullah to safeguard his petty interests. Sheikh ul Alam doesn’t criticize only Mullahs but Rishis too who have adorned the false garb of being a Rishi without controlling their basic animal instincts.
The subjects, issues and problems that Sheikh ul Alam deals with remain the same that present day mankind is baffling with, whether be it in our individual lives or collective societies. The manner in which he tackles the problem and the solutions that he offers are a living testimony of the relevance of his thought and message. His verses are full of advises and solutions that a man faces in his day to day life, and his message offers practical roadmap for the salvation of soul. His verses don’t deal solitarily with mundane activities of life, but they do certainly explain the longing for meeting with Divine Creator, the love, ecstasy, Gnostic and mystic experience that a lover faces and the trials and tribulations that he encounters in this path, that are worth daring because of the eternal bliss and reward that awaits such a seeker
Aashiq Suey Yuss Ashiqey Seetey Dazey
Sunn Zan Pazles Punuy Paan
Asheqey Dooud Yess Wanijey Sazey
Suey Adey Watey La Makan
Aye! A lover true wilt fume in love and amour
Glittering wilt he be like gold in fusion and suspension
He who be pierced with darts of love and passion
Wilt find himself in abodes among visionary destination.
Sheikh Nur-ud-din’s life has impressed the Kashmiri people and his message of universal brotherhood, inner peace is so relevant in present painful era and all times.
Kashmiryat ethos of tolerance brotherhood is also derived from Sufism and to end the sufferings and pain we need to revive both to end dark era. (KNB)
Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, KNB