Shi‘ism in Kashmir

Shi‘ism in Kashmir

Spirituality and Theology

Shi‘ism in Kashmir
A History of Sunni-Shi‘i Rivalry and Reconciliation

Author(s): Hakim Sameer Hamdani

Reviewed by: Imran H Khan Suddahazai



Reviewed by: Imran H Khan Suddahazai – The One Institute, UK

Published by: London: I.B. Tauris, 2023, 217pp. ISBN: 978-0755643936 (hardback).

Hamdani presents a captivating revisionist analysis of the historical legacy and influence of the Shiʿi community in establishing, upholding and reconciling its theological interpretation of Islam in Kashmir. Hamdani argues that this has been attained despite the tumultuous oppression wrought upon them by the majority Sunni groups prevalent in the region. He contends that the initial seeds for his thesis are centred within the formative narratives detailing the adoption of Islam, circa the early 14th century in Srinagar by the Buddhist King of Kashmir, Rinchana (1320-23). Traditional oral and historical records in the forms of safar nāmahs (travelogues), tārīkhs (histories) and tadhkirahs (hagiographies) depict and identify his lengthy discussion with the ascetic Muslim dervish from Turkistan, Sayyid Sharaf al-Dīn (d.1327) or Bulbul Shāh as the pivotal moment when Islam was officially sanctioned and accepted as the religion of the dawlah (State) and the salāṭīn (leaders) of Kashmir. Hamdani observes that when Rinchana accepted the Islamic faith, he symbolically adopted a new name, Ṣadr al-Dīn, and thereby ascertained the distinction of becoming the first Sunni Muslim sovereign of Kashmir.

However, Hamdani’s point departs from the accepted historical narratives and presents us with an intriguing possibility. He asserts that Bulbul Shāh, the wandering dervish, has been assumed, without any scholarly consideration, to have been a Sunni Muslim, which consequently establishes the precedent of Sunnism in Kashmir. Conversely, Hamdani argues that an examination of Bulbul Shāh’s person and writings as recorded in hagiographical (tadhkiras) and historical (tārīkhs) accounts reveal that he was a Shiʿi.

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