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Islamic Iconoclasm in Kashmir: Motives and Magnitude

Islamic Iconoclasm in Kashmir: Motives and Magnitude

Author: Rashneek Kher
Publication: Islam Watch
Date: January 10, 2008
URL: http://www.islam-watch.org/Others/Islamic-Iconoclasm-in-Kashmir-Motives-and-Magnitude.htm

Iconoclasm and religious persecution of faiths alien to the king's faith has been a norm said one of my Marxist friends. He didn't stop there. He went on to name various Hindu, Naga, Buddhist & Huna kings [Kalhana's Rajatarangi (The River of Kings)] in the Pre-Islamic period who had resorted to iconoclasm and religious persecution of faiths other than theirs. As if this wasn't enough he went on to announce that Islam in Kashmir had spread through examples set by missionaries and religious divines and not military expansions. Obviously for this he did not have any credible historical evidence but then isn't spreading lies about India's past one of the favourite pastimes of Marxist Historians, Romila Thapar included. Ordinarily I would have ignored such a statement had it been made by some sly shadow of Mao but since this came from someone whose knowledge of history and art is highly respected by his followers, it was time to call his bluff. While no-one can argue that Kashmir has not seen sporadic cases of Iconoclasm (even in the pre-Islamic era) we cannot but observe that such cases have been exceptions or aberrations rather than an instrument for subjugation of followers of a different faith. Compare that to the Islamic period and we have whole lot of historical evidence to suggest that persecution (in the Salatin era) of non-Muslim subjects happened at a large scale which resulted in 6 exoduses of the Hindu community from the valley. There is evidence also to support that whichever of the two Islamic sects (Shia's or Sunni's) was in power subjugated the other but meted out special torment on non-Muslim subjects.

While it is true that Kashmir did not have armies of Arabs or Persians (although Zulchu did march in with his armies in Kashmir but the purpose was to loot and not conquer land or convert its inhabitants. I am saying this despite the fact that he took thousands of Kashmiri men and women as slaves all of whom perished in a snow storm at Devasar in Anantanag) marching into its land but as far as conversions due to examples set by missionaries and Dervishes are concerned, it is mere hogwash to a great extent. How Islam was spread is clear from the next part of this column. You will see how Hindus were converted by brute force and how atrocities were inflicted by the Osama's of those days.


I once again re-affirm that while a miniscule percentage of Hindu, Hun (like Mihirkula), Buddhists (like Jaluka) rulers did destroy temples and some destroyed Buddhist Viharas too (of course not Shankarvarman) the reasons for the same were not religious expansion or bigotry. Unlike Muslim kings they did not think that they have a holy aim of converting Darul-Harb to Darul-Islam. The aim was not to subjugate or make people change their religion or faith but anything else. Most of the Muslim rulers destroyed temples thinking that they were doing a righteous act and were promoting Shariah by eliminating infidels (Kafir's). Many thought that they were emulating the Prophet (SAW) little realizing the difference that what Prophet Mohammed (PBH) had done while destroying the idols at Kabba (a pagan place of worship then and a mosque now) was destroying idolatry and not idols. Iconoclasm in Kashmir was endorsed by the Amirs of the day (whether general Muslims supported it or not can be a matter of debate much like whether majority Hindus supported or condemned the barbaric destruction of Babri Mosque or whether Iconoclasm, in present day Kashmir has the mandate of the Muslims of the Valley or not).There are examples galore to prove this point. In order to put this in perspective I am giving some references.

From Bahristan-i-Shahi

"Sultan Shihabu'd-Din addressed himself to such works as would help him get peace in the world hereafter. He arranged a tomb and a burial place for himself to be used after his death. Towards the fag end of his life, he was infused with a zeal for demolishing idol-houses and destroying the temples and idols of the infidels. He destroyed the massive temple at Beejeh Belareh [31] (Bijbehara). He had designs to destroy all the temples and put an end to the entire community of the infidels. [32] "

"Again it needs to be recorded that for some of the time which the holy Amir spent in Kashmir he lived in a sarai at 'Alau'd-Din Pora. At the site where his khanqah was built, there existed a small temple which was demolished and converted into an estrade on which he offered namaz (prayer) five times a day and recited portions of the Qur'an morning and evening. Sultan Qutbu'd-Din occasionally attended these congregational prayers." "[It may be recorded] that the temples of idol-worshippers, which had been destroyed and razed to the ground by the religious-minded and justice-loving Sultan Sikandar - God bless his grave and bless him-had been rebuilt and rehabilitated by Zainu'l 'Abidin. He had permitted idolators and polytheists to revive the practices of infidelity and they had propagated heresy (kufr) and false religion (din-i batil). With the support of some more kings, [96] the infidels had flourished day after day. But with the support and authority of Malik Musa Raina, Amir Shamsu'd-Din Muhammad undertook a wholesale destruction of all those idol-houses [97] as well as the total ruination of the very foundation of infidelity and disbelief. On the site of every idol-house he destroyed, he ordered the construction of a mosque for offering prayers after the Islamic manner."

The idolatry and heresy which had existed prior to his coming to this place were effectively replaced by his preaching and propagation of Islamic laws and practices. He brought honour to all the infidels and heretics (zandiqa) of Kashmir by admitting them to the Islamic faith and bestowed upon them many kinds of rewards and benefactions. It is publicly known as well as emphatically related that during his life-time, with the virtuous efforts and elaborate arrangements made by the fortunate Malik Musa Raina, twenty-four thousand families of staunch infidels and stubborn heretics were ennobled by being converted to the Islamic faith. [99] It is difficult to compute the number of people who had hitherto indulged in corrupt practices of a wrong (false) faith and dissent and were put on the right track under the proper guidance of Mir Shamsu'd-Din 'Iraqi .[99]

In fact the transmitter of (God's) grace (Mir Shams 'Iraqi) conferred favours upon the righteous Malik Musa Raina and gave him blessings which enabled him to fulfill that cherished task. Indeed, fortunate is one who has been able to become the recipient of such special consideration at the hands of a highly venerable and elderly person like him (Amir Shamsu'd-Din). After Sultan Sikandar - God's peace be upon him-no one among the Muslims who wielded authority over this country rendered as much service to Islam by its propagation and advancement as Malik Musa Raina did. Nobody was able to make as organized an effort as he did towards the advancement and furtherance of the Muhammadan religion.

Please look at how the kings viewed their acts. One thought he would get peace by destroying temples. Sultan Sikander has been defined as religious minded and justice loving by the historians of the day while in no case has Kalhana supported or even condoned breaking of religious places. He heaped scorn on kings who resorted to this.

Now that's the difference. While Muslim Kings, their Amirs and even most Muslim Historians thought that the King was indulging in act of religious righteousness, kings belonging to other faiths had no such grandiose megalomania of reaching heaven (where houris would await them) by resorting to such acts.

It makes an important reading into the mindset of the Muslim rulers. They clearly saw a holy purpose of converting "people of false faiths" like Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas and other heterodox religions to the only "true religion". In their understanding of Islam they were doing great acts and their Amirs and most Historians of that period (especially the foreign historians who came with them) supported this sickness unlike Kalhana who out rightly condemned these acts.

Read the Last line of my reference from the Bharistan-i-Shahi Nobody was able to make as organized an effort as he did towards the advancement and furtherance of the Muhammadan religion.

Here we are. The purpose is clear "Advancement and Furtherance of the Mohammedan Religion".

Tarikh-i-Hasan Khuihami

For details of forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam and their massacre in case they refused to be converted, see Tarikh-i-Hasan Khuihami; pp. 178-80. One significant detail is that three kharwars (one kharwar is approximately equal to eighty kilograms) of Hindu ceremonial thread (zunnar) were burnt by Sultan Sikandar. (Tarikh-i-Hasan Khuihami, Pir Ghulam Hasan, Vol II, RPD,* Srinagar 1954.)

Other Sources for Sikander Butshikan alone

This is what historians (mostly Muslims) have to say: "He [Sikandar] prohibited all types of frugal games. Nobody dared to commit acts which were prohibited by the Sharia. The Sultãn was constantly busy in annihilating the infidels and destroyed most of the temples..." (Haidar Malik Chãdurãh: Tãrîkh-i-Kashmîr; edited and translated into English by Razia Bano, Delhi, 1991, p. 55.)

"[He] strove to destroy the idols and temples of the infidels. He got demolished the famous temple of Mahãdeva at Bahrãre. The temple was dug out of its foundation and the hole (that remained) reached the water table. Another temple at Jagdar was also demolished… Rãjã Alamãdat had got a big temple constructed at Sinpur. (...) The temple was destroyed [by Sikandar]." (Khwãjah Nizãmu'd- Dîn Ahmad bin Muhammad Muqîm al-Harbî: Tabqãt-i-Akbarî translated by B. De, Calcutta, 1973)

"Sikander burnt all books the same way as fire burns hay". "All the scintillating works faced destruction in the same manner that lotus flowers face with the onset of frosty winter." (Srivara, Zaina Ra-jtarangini). This I am giving more for its poetic value rather than what it says.

Also please do pay attention to the following:

"At the behest of Shams Iraqi, Musa Raina had ordered 1500 to 2000 infidels to be brought to his door-steps every day by his followers. They would remove their sacred threads, administer Kalima to them, circumcise them and thrust lumps of beef into their mouths,'' mentions Tohfatul Ahbab.

Role of so-called Sufis:

While no one can deny the fact that Kashmir was greatly influenced by Sufism and has produced some great Sufi saints and mystic poets (both Hindus and Muslims), we must stay clear of attaching a Sufi tag to every Muslim Godman. On one hand we have the great Sufi Tradition of Nund Rishi, Shams Faqir, Ahmed batwario, Rahim Saab, Swoch Kral, Prakesh Ram Kurigami, Govind Kaul, Ahmed Dar, on the other we have self styled god-men like Bul Bul Shah and Syed Ali Hamdani on whom this label of Sufi is stuck to make them more palatable to the larger masses.

Syed Ali Hamdani or Shah-I Hamdan as he is popularly called by Kashmiri Muslims is widely regarded as the man responsible for conversion of Kashmiris to Islam. As we already know that the Shah-i-Hamadan mosque was built after demolishing a Kali temple (and there are enough historical records to prove that, apart from the fact that to this day Pandits perform prayers alongside the converted structure). Now that itself should restrain our Marxist historians from making "religious divines" claim.

That not-withstanding I would like to inform the forum that before Shah-i-Hamadan left Kashmir he ordered the king to impose the following sanctions on Non-Muslims. I am enumerating them for your reading please.

1) The Hindus will not construct any new temples under the rule of Muslims.

2) They will not repair old temples fallen into ruins.

3) They will respect Muslims.

4) They will not dress like Muslims.

5) They will not ride a horse with saddle & bridle.

6) They will not put on a ring.

7) They will not carry swords or bows & arrows.

8) They will not adopt Muslim names.

9) They will not harbour spies or act as spies.

10) If any relation of theirs wants to embrace Islam, they will not oppose it.

11) If a Muslim comes to attend a Hindu meeting he will be respectfully received.

12) They will receive Muslim travelers into their houses & provide them hospitality.

13) They will not prevent Muslim travelers from staying in their temples & shrines.

14) They will not mourn their dead loudly.

15) They will not buy Muslim slaves.

16) They will not build houses in neighbourhood of Muslims.

17) They will not sell intoxicating drinks.

18) They will not carry their dead near the grave-yards of Muslims.

19) They will not openly practice their customs & usages among Muslims.

20) They will not give up their traditional dress so that they can be distinguished from Muslims.

In the end, the fiat in the form of an advice dictated if any Hindu dares to flout any of conditions, he should be first looted and then possession of his body is halal (Zakhiratul- Muluk).

(Source: Dr.Qayoom Rafiquee's doctoral thesis titled" Sufism in Kashmir")

In case this is not enough proof for anybody's flight of fancy which makes him believe that Islam spread peacefully here are some examples from the same thesis. If this isn't persecution in the name of religion then I wonder what is.

Writes Dr. Qayoom Rafiquee, "Mir Mohammad was not ready to give the status of Zimmis to the Hindus of Kashmir and treated them as kafirs who were not obedient to Islam, but were at war with it". Sufism in Kashmir, P-101

Again to quote Rafiquee, 'the medieval Muslim sources inform us emphatically that infidelity was uprooted from Kashmir through the influence of Mir Mohammad'. Sufism in Kashmir 101.

And sadly some of us have the cheek to say Islam in Kashmir spread through divinity and personal example of missionaries.

This should put to rest any imaginative thought processes of Islam spreading in Kashmir through "divine incarnation of Dervishes and examples set by missionaries". If someone still wants to stick to his point then I hope the same divinity that dawned on our forefathers in Kashmir dawns on him too.

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