The propagation of Islam begun by travelers, traders and adventures and received further impetus
from Saints and Sufis of Iran and Central Asia, who subsequently came to Kashmir. Syed Sharaf-ud-din, popularly known as Bulbul
Shah, from Turkistan was the first Sufi saint to enter Kashmir during the first decade of 14th century. Rinchan, the Hindu monarch of Kashmir was very inquisitive person and studied various religions to find the truth for himself and ultimately
accepted Islam at the hands of Bulbul Shah and became the first Muslim ruler of the state. Rinchan assumed the Islamic name
Sadr-ud-din. The conversion of Rinchen Shah at the hands of Bulbul Shah took place in the year 1325 A.D. Bulbul Shah led ‘a
life of complete self-abnegation’ and ‘cast an enormous influence on the people amongst whom he worked and lived’.
After the conversion of Rinchen he started propagation of Islam openly and succeeded in converting some influential Kashmiris
including Rinchan Shah’s brother-in-law and commander-in-chief. Rinchan was so much inspired by Bulbul Shah that he
built a Khanqah for him, which according to many historians, was the first khanqah built in Kashmir. Bulbul Shah died in 727A.H. His tomb is situated on eastern side of river Jehlum near
Ali Kadal, Srinagar. Sultan Shahab-ud-din Shahmiri (1354-73) made Islamic
Kashmir a power to reckon with. Within two years of his succession, Tibet, Khasgar and Kabul were added to the Kingdom of Kashmir. His reign was characterized by peace, prosperity
and rule of law. The end of 14th century witnessed great progress of Islam in Kashmir when religious missionaries largely Sayyids from Iran entered Kashmir Valley.
The most celebrated of these Sayyids was Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (1314-1384 AD), popularly known
in Kashmir as Shahi Hamadan. Syed Ali Hamadani was a prolific
traveller in his times and traveled far and wide throughout the Muslim World. Consequently, he undertook the Haj thrice and
traveled for twenty or twenty one years. During these journeys he saw the Islamic and other countries and met the holy men
there. To avoid persecution in his homeland at the hands of Timur, he moved to Kashmir with seven hundred followers, during the reign of King Shahab-Uddin. He had already sent two
of his followers: Syed Taj Uddin Samnani and Mir Syed Hasan Samnani to take stock of the situation. In Kashmir, Shah-e-Hamadan started to preach Islam in an organized manner. He
and his followers helped setup a large number of mosques in every nook and corner of the valley, the most famous of them being
the Khanqah-e-Muala on the banks of Jhelum River.
Shah Hamdan did not stay in the valley permanently but visited the valley on various occasions.
The first time was during the reign of Sultan Shahab Uddin in 774 A.H he came, stayed for six months and left. The second
time he visited was in 781 A.H. when Qutub Uddin was the ruler. This time he stayed for a year and tried to extend the Movement
to every nook and corner of Kashmir, returning to Turkistan via Ladakh in 783 A.H. Third, he visited in 785, with the intention
to stay for a longer period but had to return earlier owing to illness.
Shah-e-Hamadan has been on the principal historical figures who have shaped the culture of Kashmir. His influence on arts and culture and the economy of the valley cannot
be overstated. Among the seven hundred followers who accompanied him to Kashmir, were men of arts and crafts who flourished in the valley. They popularized Shawl-making, carpet-manufacturing, cloth-weaving,
pottery and calligraphy. The skills and know-how he brought to Kashmir gave rise to an industry which is world famous even now as the home of Cashmere shawls. The many vocations he introduced in the valley have provided a livelyhood to the artisans
of Kasmir for centuries.
Islam came to Kashmir as ‘civilisation
building’ religion and was culturally superior to the native inward looking Brahmanism and thus out-moded the latter.
By the end of 15th century Islamic influence was predominant due to large scale conversions and influx of Sufis, ulema, litterateurs,
poets, technologists, scientists, craftsmen and artists, particularly from Persia and Central Asia.
Later the Muslim Sultans introduced new technologies and crafts that had a great impact on finance
and the economy. They improved agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. Kashmir became not only self-sufficient in foodstuffs, but it also turned out to be a world famous centre of extra-ordinary
crafts. The Sultans also built bridges for the first time in Kashmir. Sultan Sikander built first hospital - which provided free food, boarding, lodging and medicine to the patients. He
also built Jamia Masjid and many other great buildings.
Islamic culture reached its zenith during the reign of Zain-al-abidin also called Budshah. Persian
and central Asian attire replaced the royal dress of Hindu times. Sanskrit was replaced by Persian. Sumptuous dishes brought
in by the Muslims broke the resolution of Hindus and even they started eating beef and cow. Even Brahmans like Srivara who
warned people against adopting Islamic culture himself learned Persian.
Thus Islamic culture became the new style, new reference culture to be adopted by the all for prestige
and authority. Hindus now also offered their girls in marriage to the Muslim families, as it became status symbol.
In comparison to Islam, the spread of Hinduism in Kashmir was violent and destructive. As long as Buddhists ruled Kashmir, Buddhism was the mass religion of Kashmir and the Valley became one of the great centers of Buddhist learning. However, when in A.D. 515 Miharkula - the zealot
Hindu Saiva ascended to the throne, he ruthlessly established his faith. He massacred large number of Buddhists and destroyed
their places of worship.
Muslim rule was established in 1339 by a noble immigrant - Shahmir. He was only able to do so by
the support of his Hindu subjects and Brahmans who recognised his role for his Hindu subjects and called him ‘saviour
of the people’ despite their contempt for Muslims.The others among the preachers
of Islam in Kashmir were Mir Syed Mohd Hamdani, Mir Syed Mohd Baihaqi, Syed Hasan Shirazi, Amir Syed
Ahmed Madani, Syed Nuruddin, Mulla Parsa. The remarkable Shiite Muslim preachers who came to Kashmir to propogate Islam
are Mulla Alim Ansari (1418), Syed Hussain Qumi (1418) and Mir Shams-ud-din Iraqi (1479).