By Zeeshan Rasool Khan
Syedus Saadat Salaar’e Ajam: Dast’e ou Maemar’e Taqdeer’e Ummam
(Syed of Syeds and a leader of Iran; who shaped the destiny of nations) (Allama Iqbal)
Many great saints, sages, and savants came to Kashmir for promoting and propagating ‘Islam’. Among these personages, ‘Syed Ali Hamdani (R.A)’ is the most prominent and is considered as the founder of Islam in the valley.
Syed Ali Hamdani enjoys the prestige of being Najeeb-ur-Tarafaen Syed- ( a true Syed whose lineage has never seen non- Syed) with his father Syed Shaha-bu-deen Hamdani, a decedent of Imam Hussein (A.S) and his mother Syeda Fatima, a decedent of Imam Hassan (A.S). Born on 12 Rajab-ul-Murajab 714 AH (12 October 1314 A.D) in Hamadan (Iran), and died on 6th Zilhujjah 786 AH (19 January 1384 A.D) in Kunar (a province in Afghanistan), Syed Ali Hamdani was Sufi Saint of Kubravi order, a scholar, a theologian, a socialist, a writer, a poet, and a preacher par excellence.
Having several titles, ‘Ali Sani’, Amir-I- Kabeer, Shah-e-Hamdan, Qutub-ul-Aktaab, etc. Syed Ali Hamdani belonged to an educated family and received basic education under the supervision of his maternal uncle Ala-ud-Daula Semnani for thirteen years. For Spiritual training, Syed Ali Hamdani proceeded to Sheikh Shrafuddin Mahmud Mazdigani who instructed him to set out on a journey, meet the saints, get guidance from them, and spread the message of Islam. He traveled frequently, spent the better part of his life traveling, and contributed enormously to the dissemination of the Islamic message. According to tradition, he toured around the world three times and carried teachings of Islam to many countries, which include China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, etc. He also chose the valley of Kashmir and sowed here the seeds of love, peace, and harmony that influenced masses to accept the message of Prophet (PBUH), that is – ‘There is no God but Allah. Muhammad (PBUH) is the messenger of the God.’
The valley of Kashmir is blessed in the sense that Syed Ali Hamdani came here thrice and made it the center of his activities. He came to Kashmir for the first time during the reign of Sultan Shihab-ud-din in 774 A.H (1372 B.C) and stayed here for a brief period of four months. Sultan Qutubudin (brother of Sultan Shahabuddin) welcomed the second visit of Hamdani in 781 AH (1379 A.D). This time Hamdani was accompanied by 700 missionaries who assisted him in establishing mosques, seminaries, and centers of preaching across the length and breadth of the valley. This visit was thus, a landmark in the growth of Islam. After spending 2years, he went back to Turkistan via Ladakh. He visited the valley again in 785AH (1383 A.D) but had to return earlier on account of illness. On return from this visit, he reached Kunar and after few days bade adieu to materialistic life (on 6th Zilhujjah 786 AH). His earthly remains were taken to Kolab in Khitlan (Tajikistan) and buried there.
Before leaving Kashmir, he deputed his son Mir Muhammad Hamdani (r.a) to take forward the sacred mission of enlightening the hearts of people with the faith of Islam. Mir Muhammad Hamdani later institutionalized the Islamic mission in Kashmir. He supervised the construction of famous institutions like, Khankah e Maula (Srinagar), Khankah e Faizpanah (Tral), Khankah-I-Aala (Pulwama), Khanqah, (Wachi Shopian), etc, which played an important role in spiritual, social, and educational reforms throughout the history of Kashmir. Even at present, these institutions continue to be the fountainheads of excellence and spirituality.
Hamdani’s economic impact on Kashmir is incredibly profound. His role in the economic upliftment of the Kashmiri nation is historic and crucial. He aimed to make Kashmiri self-sufficient by imparting skills. Thus, along with religious preachers, he brought with him numerous artists and artisans who settled down in Kashmir and taught the craft of Pashmina textile and carpet making to the local population. The establishment of the shawl industry and its subsequent prevalence in this part of the world has been possible because of him. The introduction of the craft, handicraft, calligraphy, Copper-work, and Silverwork in Kashmir is also the benevolence of Hamdani on the Kashmiri people. He familiarized people with trade and commerce on the pattern prevailing in central Asia that boosted them economically. In addition, he revived agricultural, irrigational, and industrial systems by suggesting new techniques. In this way, Hamdani changed the life patterns of the Kashmiri people and shaped the destiny of Kashmir. Apart from appreciating Hamdani’s role in Kashmir’s Islamic revolution, Allama Iqbal immortalized his socio-economic, and cultural contribution as- Khitah ra ‘aan shah’e darya aasteen; Daad ilm wa sannat wa tehzeeb wa deen (Shah Hamdan provided (to Kashmiris) knowledge, industry, culture, and religion through his inclusive approach and oceanic vision).
Hamdani was a man of letters and despite having a busy schedule, he proved to be a great poet and writer. In poetry, he used pen names; ‘Ulai’ and ‘Ali’ and Chihli-Asrar is one of his anthologies consisting of 40 poems mostly based on spirituality. He wrote hundreds of pamphlets in Arabic and Persian to reach the maximum audience and to preserve his ideas, philosophy, and message (which include guidance for Kings and rulers) for the future generation. Abdul Wahab Noori, author of the book Fatuhaati Kubraviyah quotes Syed Ali Hamdani saying; ‘I have not been appreciated in this world but hundred years after my death, people will start benefiting from my writings and appreciate my value’. And without any doubt, these pamphlets exist as documents of guidance for all. These writings are scattered in different libraries of the world and scholars in particular and people, in general, are benefited from them.
Among these writing, Awrad-Fathiyah is one of the great Arabic works of Syed Ali Hamdani. It is a reflection of Hamdani’s concern for Muslims of Kashmir. Syed Ali Hamdani on noticing unsure faith and witnessing the plight of Kashmiri Muslims asked them to recite Awrad loudly to reinforce the belief and to get rid of sufferings by invoking Almighty Allah.
So immense is the contribution of Syed Ali Hamdani that one column will not suffice to cover it. A detailed account of his role in the preaching of Islam and influence on different aspects of the lives of Kashmiris has brought forth many books. Nevertheless, what is important for us is to understand his message, imbibe his teachings, and practice them in everyday life besides bearing in mind his multi-dimensional role.