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Kashmiriyat is a Prototype for Hindustaniyat


Kashmiri Sufism, Islam and Hinduism


By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor,



South Asian Islam finds its best expression in Kashmir’s Rishi-Sufi order and its precious gift known in the valley and beyond as Kashmiriyat, of which the Kashmiri people are justly proud. The defining features of Kashmiri Sufism are a belief in both the transcendence and immanence of God, respect for other religions, belief in reincarnation, emphasis on following the right path (very similar to the eight-fold path taught by Lord Buddha), developing mind’s potential through meditation and absorption, using primarily a technique called paas-e-anfaas (watching the breath, a form of pranayama), belief in miracles performed by the Sufi saint and his or her capacity to intercede with God on behalf of his followers, love of idols of gods and goddesses and contempt for the Mullah, the priest who teaches a ritualistic version of Islam. The evolution of Kashmiri Sufism has been possible because of a peaceful interaction between Islam and Hinduism in the South Asian region over 14 centuries, in which both religions have discovered a spiritual symbiosis. But it needs to be emphasised, particularly in view of the current Islamic fundamentalist propaganda against the Islamic spirit of Sufism, that though it has remained open to influence from other religions and philosophies, the essential temperament of Kashmiri Sufism remains Islamic.


 Born in the sandy dunes and hills of Arabian Desert 14 centuries ago, Islam has spread throughout the world. It now claims almost two billion followers. Wherever it has gone, it has acquired a local colour, while retaining its basic belief systems. Islam itself has encouraged this process. The Holy Quran exhorts its followers to believe in all the prophets of God, by whatever names they may now be known, who preceded Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).

In Islamic traditions the number of such seers, who brought messages from God, is put at 1,24,000, though only 25 names could be mentioned in the Quran. Thus while expressing belief in the oneness of God and the prophethood of Mohammad, a Muslim simultaneously expresses belief in all the previous messengers of God as well. It is natural that the Muslims have not felt obliged to distance themselves totally from their previous beliefs and practices even after conversion to Islam, at least to the extent these did not contravene their new Islamic beliefs. Indian Islam, therefore, naturally has its own indigenous flavour. And it finds its best expression in the Sufi way of life in the Kashmir valley.

Kashmiri Islam is renowned for its broadmindedness and its deep commitment to tolerance of all streams of thought. It is known to be firmly anchored in the Indian soil. Where from does their deep commitment to a composite Hindu-Muslim culture, to what we call secularism, which is basically respect for all religions, emanate? What is the source of this deep connection with India despite the militant separatism of the past decade? Why is Kashmiriyat so important to the Kashmiri Muslim? I think the answer lies in the eclectic and syncretic nature of their spiritual beliefs. It is the impact of Sufi and Rishi visions of Islam that have helped him synthesise the message of Prophet Mohammad with the teachings of earlier prophets of Islam that constitute the core beliefs of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Perhaps the most important factor that contributed to Kashmiriyat is the history of a peaceful spread of Islam in this region. An authority on Kashmir, Dr. M. A. Stein maintains that Islam made its way into the valley not by forcible conquest but by gradual conversion, for which the influx of foreign adventurers from the south and central Asia had prepared the ground.[1]  Definite historical facts that would account for the extraordinarily large number of conversions that took place in Kashmir are not available, as Sir Thomas Arnold points out [2]with regret.  But whatever scanty information is available leads us to attribute this surprising phenomenon to a long and continuous missionary movement carried out by Sufi saints, pirs, faqirs, dervishes and ulema. The Islamic missionary entered the valley at a time when, in the words of W.R. Lawrence[3] it "was a country of drunkards and gamblers." Such an atmosphere is very much suited for the spread of a new philosophy or religion.


Rishi-Sufi Order


 The most important influence on the Kashmiri Muslims, in terms of their Kashmiriyat, is that of the Rishi order of Sufis. While the Sufi orders like the Suhrawardi, Kubravi, Naqshbandi and Qadri, arrived in Kashmir from Persia, Central Asia, and Central and North India, the Rishi order evolved in the Valley itself in the beginning of the 15th century.

The Kashmir valley was already permeated with the traditions of Hindu asceticism and Buddhist renunciation. As an authority on Kashmiri Sufism, Prof. Abdul Qaiyum Rafiqi explains[4], the term Rishi itself is clearly a derivation from Sanskrit traditions. Important chroniclers of this period, Abul Fazal, for instance, or Emperor Jahangir, reveal a close resemblance between the life-styles of the Sufis and the Hindu Rishis as well as Buddhist and Jain monks. Jahangir corroborates Abu’l-Fazl in his Memoirs[5]. He says: “Although they have not acquired learning and mar’rifa, they live a frank and unostentatious life. They criticize nobody and ask for nothing from anyone. They restrain the tongue of desire, and the foot of seeking. They neither eat meat nor marry. They always plant fruit-bearing trees in uninhabited parts, so that they may benefit people. But they themselves do not hope to reap any advantages from these trees." Baba Dawood Khaki and Baba Naseeb, too give a similar account. [6]


Nand Rishi Sheikhul-Alam Sheikh Nooruddin is the forerunner of the Rishi order of Sufis. Having wielded tremendous influence on the Kashmiri society, Sheikh Nooruddeen is considered the national saint of Kashmir.  His ziarat (shrine) at Charar-e-Sharif is visited by thousands till this day and is a main target of the Fundamentalist Islam’s ire. His sayings show that he believed that God is both immanent and transcendent. God is everywhere, not confined to one place or another. According to Sheikhul Alam, all the branches of knowledge are nothing but the commentary upon the proclamation of faith, “There is no God but Allah”. If one truly seeks God, he says, everything but Allah becomes worthless. One, who recognises himself, recognises God: “When I was able to recognise my own self, I was able to recognise God; both loss and gain became identical to me and the distinction between life and death disappeared.” [7]


He once told his mother: “God was and is and shall be for ever; He is independent of all other creatures; He lacks nothing.” [8]

Further he says:


“There is one God,

 But with a hundred names.

There is not a single blade of grass,

Which does not worship Him.”[9]


“First I became certain that there is no God but Allah,

Then I made myself (acquainted) Divine revelations.

First I forgot myself and yearned after God,

Then I reached la-makan.”[10]

With such deep commitment to spiritual growth and the Islamic philosophy of Divine Unity as expressed in the philosophy of Wahdat-ul-wujud, which is uniquely similar to the Hindu philosophy of non-duality (Advaita), it is not at all surprising that the Rishis consistently preached complete harmony among different religions and peace and understanding among their followers.

This was not always easy. Sheikhul Alam Sheikh Nooruddin, for instance, faced restrictions during the reign of Suha Bhatt who had started persecuting non-Muslims in his newfound Islamic zeal after conversion to the new faith. Aware of the tension created between Hindus and Muslims during the reign of Sultan Sikandar, Sheikh Nooruddin wrote:

"We belong to the same parents.

Then why this difference?

Let Hindus and Muslims (together)

Worship God alone.

We came to this world like partners.

We should have shared our joys and sorrows together.

Nand Rishi Sheikh Nooruddin's message was not confined to Hindus and Muslims alone. It speaks to all mankind. That is why his sayings and his verses have acquired the character of proverbs and are routinely referred to by Kashmiris of all hues in their daily life. Another reason for the popularity of his verses and that of many other Rishis may be the fact that they expressed their thoughts in the simple language used by the common folk. The message given by Kashmiri Rishis or even Sufis of previous orders, who had arrived from Central Asia, is always the same - divine unity of All That Is.

In fact it is the Sufis of previous orders who had prepared the ground for the emergence of Rishis with their powerful message of religious synthesis. One poem is of special relevance. This is from the verses of Sarfi, a Sufi of the Kubravi Order.

"O, Sarfi!

What benefit are you going to gain from the pilgrimage?

If Kaaba, temple and tavern are not identical with you.

O, Sarfi!

As on every side a ray has

Fallen from His face to light the night,

Impossible it is for you to say that Somnath

Has not the Kaaba's light".

It is also noteworthy that many a Sufi and Rishi, have had no hesitation in expressing their love of idols of gods and goddesses. In fact they consider idol-worship as part of the phenomenon of mystical love. Sheikh Yaqub, a Sufi of the Kubravi order, for instance, proudly calls himself a kafir of Ishq (Divine Love) and yearns to burn himself in the fire of love. He challenges the ulema (scholars) who find fault with the love of idols, to tell him if anything else is more meritorious in the world than the crime of loving idols. He asserts repeatedly that his faith is the love of idols.

The same convergence of Hindu-Muslim thought is discernible in Kashmiri mysticism on the question of reincarnation. While few Muslims in other parts of the sub-continent believe in reincarnation in the context of the philosophy of Karma, it is not unusual to find many believers in this theory among Kashmiri Muslims. Kashmiri Islam is much indebted to the Persian influence in this regard. Verses like the following from the Masnawi by Hazrat Jalaluddin Rumi, are common knowledge in Kashmir:

"I died as mineral and became a plant,

I died as plant and rose to animal,

I died as animal and I was Man.

Why should I fear?

When was I less by dying?

Yet Once more I shall die as Man,

To soar with angels blest;

But even from angelhood I must pass on...." [11]

Sufism involves the improvement of man’s relationship with man as well as man’s relationship with Allah. Those who believe in Wahdut-ul-wujud also believe that the only real existence is Allah who is therefore Wajib-ul-wujud. All other beings are shadows, phantoms of our creation as the poet Mir says:


Ye tawahhum ka karkhana hai

Yan wohi hai jo aitebaar kiya


This universe is nothing but delusion

Nothing exists except what we assume.


This idea is similar to the philosophy of Vedanta–– ‘There is only one Brahma and none else exists’. The most distinguished exponent of Wahdat-ul-wujud was Shaikh Mohiuddin Ibn Arabi, the author of Futuhat-e-Makkiya and Fusus al Hikam. Some Sufis like Mansur al-Hallaj, Qazi-ul-Qazzat Hamadani, Masud Bak were martyred for propagating the philosophy of Unity of Existence, yet the idea remained a pillar of Sufi belief, especially among the Sufis of India, where the philosophy of Vedanta gave it a firm foundation.

For the Sufi God is both transcendent and immanent. The concepts of transcendence and immanence (bhedabheda)

Indian philosophy too

asserts both identity and difference between the world and finite individuals, on the one hand, and Brahman, on the other. The world and finite individuals are real and yet both different and not different from the Brahman. Brahman is viewed as both the material and the efficient cause of the world. Though Brahman as cause is different from Brahman as effect, the two are identical inasmuch as the effect dissolves into the cause, as the waves return into the sea.  As waves are both different from and identical with the sea, so are the world and the finite individuals in relation to Brahman. The finite selves are parts of Brahman, as sparks of fire are parts of fire.[12]

It is not at all surprising in this context that one of the most influential personalities in Kashmir until the present day, though not a Kashmiri himself, is Mughal Prince and brother of Emperor Aurangzeb, Dara Shikoh who discovered a lot of common ground between Hindu and Muslim religious thought[13]:


Here is the secret of unity (tawhid), O friend, understand it;

Nowhere exists anything but God.

All that you see or know other than Him,

Verily is separate in name, but in essence one with God.


Like an ocean is the essence of the Supreme Self,

Like forms in water are all souls and objects;

The ocean heaving and stirring within

Transforms itself into drops, waves and bubbles.


So long as it does not realise its separation from the ocean,

The drop remains a drop;

So long he does not know himself to be the Creator,

The created remains a created.


O you, in quest of God, you seek Him everywhere,

You verily are the god, not apart from Him!

Already in the midst of the boundless ocean,

Your quest resembles the search of a drop for the ocean!


The relationship between the broad-minded Sufis and the conservative Ulema has never been cordial in most Muslim societies. But whereas the Sufis were on the margins of society in several other places, in Kashmir, as in other parts of India, they were the dominant influence. This is what makes Kashmir different from Muslim societies in other parts of the world. This made it possible for the Sufi in Kashmir to rebuke the preacher rather than being the target of abuse as in other places. Sheikh Nooruddin, for instance, could afford to be highly critical of the Mullahs who make it their profession to recite the Quran and get money in return - one of the greatest crimes in Islam. The Rishi-Sufi appears to have nothing but contempt for this tribe of people:

"A spiritual guide seems like a pot full of nectar,

Which may be trickling down in drops.

On examining him we found him empty in mind,

He may be preaching to others but forgetting himself.

O Mullah your rosary is like a snake,

You begin to count the beads when

Your disciples come near,

You eat six meals one after the other,

If you are a Mullah, then who are the thieves?"[14]

Sheikh Nooruddin is almost prophetic, when he makes the following prognosis about the fundamentalist Mullah:

"The people of Kalyug in every house

Will pretend to be saints,

As a prostitute does when dancing,

They will pretend to be innocent and extremely gentle.

They will excel thieves in living by unlawful means,

To hide themselves they will repair to a forest." [15]

The same thought is expressed by Dara Shikoh in these words:


Paradise is there where no Mullah exists—

Where the noise of his discussions and debate is not heard


May the world become free from the noise of Mullah!

And none should pay any heed to his decrees!


In the city where a Mullah resides,

No wise man ever stays.[16]


One essential feature of Kashmiri Sufism is a faith in miracles performed by the Sufi saints and their ability to intercede with God on behalf of their followers, a power that was restricted to Prophet Mohammad alone, that too to be exercised on the Day of Judgement alone and not in matters of solving mundane day-to-day problems. Fundamentalists make much of it to prove that Sufism is far from Islam, as it seems to encourage pre-Islamic superstitions, though Islam wants to make people rational and the Prophet himself did not depend on miracles to convey his message to the people or to impress upon them his closeness to God as prophets had done before him.


This makes it imperative that we try to understand the Sufi view of the place and function of miracles in their scheme of things.  “Miracles,” said Naqshband[17], “have a function, and that function operates whether they are understood or not. They have a true (objective) function. Hence, miracles will in some people produce confusion, in others scepticism, in others fear, in others excitement, and so on. It is the function of the miracle to provoke reactions and supply nutriment; nutriment in this case which varies with the personality acted upon. In all cases the miracle is an instrument of both influence and assessment of the people acted upon.” All miracles, according to the Sufis, have thus such a multifarious action on humanity that they cannot be (a) performed except when needed, and generally develop as incidental happenings; (b) diagnosed or defined because of the complexity of their nature. The nature of a miracle cannot be detached from its effect, because it would not be of any importance if a human being were not involved. 


A point of convergence between Kashmiri mysticism and the general Vedanta philosophy is the belief that performance of duties together with knowledge of Brahman leads to liberation. In religious life, like many Vedantists Kashmiri Sufis are an advocate of bhakti, but bhakti is not a mere feeling of love or affection for God, but rather is dhyana, or meditation, directed toward the transcendent Brahman who is not exhausted in his manifestations. As Dara Shikoh[18] pointed out:


Dost thou wish to enter the circle of men of illumination?

Then cease talking and be in the “state”;

By professing the unity of god, thou canst not become a monotheist

As the tongue cannot taste sugar by only uttering its name.


Even the meditative technique that Kashmiri Sufis use is closer to the Indian tradition. By and large they use variations of paas-e-anfaas[19] (watching the breath). This is similar to various techniques of pranayama widely practised in India's Hath-Yoga traditions. These meditative techniques were being practised initially by the Shaivite yogis of Kashmir before the advent of Islam. The Sufis have added the repetition of the word Allah or Allahoo or huwwa to their meditative technique.


Islam and Hinduism - spiritual symbiosis


In order to fully appreciate the depth of Kashmiri Sufis’ commitment to both Islamic and pre-Islamic Buddhist and Vedantic ideas, it is necessary to study the perspective in which their interaction with the two great religions took place. Islam and Hinduism have lived together in this land for almost fourteen centuries -the first thirteen as very good neighbours.  ‘Love thy neighbour, for he is yourself’, said the Vedas. The Holy Quran agreed. It is this spiritual symbiosis that kept the followers of the two religions in near-perfect harmony for such a long time.


Islam’s encounter with other religions was quite violent. The history of crusades launched by Christian powers is well known. It was Hinduism alone that provided Islam with a fertile ground for natural growth. Muslims’ treatment of Hindus, too, was quite considerate. As Hindus had the reputation of being polytheists and idolaters, Muslims could have treated them as Kuffar (non-believers) and Mushrekeen (polytheists). Instead, the very first Muslim to conquer parts of India - Sindh and Multan in 711 A.D. - Mohammad bin Qasim, accorded them the special status of Ahl-e-Kitab that was supposed to be meant for Christians and Jews alone. Even the Central Asian bandits who invaded and looted India could not disturb the growing ties. A number of Sufi saints spent their lifetime in India, spreading Islam’s message of peace. Prophet Mohammad, too, is believed to have felt attraction for India. Allama Iqbal had put it in these unforgettable words:


Meer-e-Arab ko aai thandi hawa jahan se;

Mera watan wohi hai, mera watan wohi hai.


(From where the Prophet received a cool breeze; that is my land, that is my land)


Some primordial spiritual connection must have been at work. For, only recently have Muslim scholars learnt that Hindus indeed constitute the fourth group of Ahl-e-Kitab. For some mysterious reason, the Holy Quran had left this question vague. It mentioned a major religious group called ‘Sabeieen’, as the ummah (followers) of a Prophet who had brought a Divine book to the world. It also mentioned Hazrat Nooh (Noah) as a major prophet ranking with prophets like Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad (p.b.u.h.). But who the followers of Hazrat Nooh are was always a mystery.[20]


Painstaking research has been going on seeking the fourth Ahl-e-Kitab. From Hazrat Shah Waliullah, Maulana Sulaiman Nadvi and Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi to Maulana Shams Navaid Usmani, a number of scholars from the sub-continent, too, contributed to this effort. It is now clear to many Muslim ulema that Hindus are indeed the lost umma of Prophet Nooh whom they know as Maha Nuwo. Evidence from Markandaya Puran and several Vedas, and their description of ‘Jal Pralaya’ (Devastation caused by the Flood) has been most helpful in this research.


The findings of this research have still not percolated down to the Muslim masses. But this information has been welcomed as an intellectual confirmation of what Muslims have known intuitively for centuries. It also satisfies the students of comparative religion who have been amazed to find passages in Vedas, Puranas, the Holy Quran, the Hadees, and the Old and New Testament that correspond to each other almost word for word.


Beginning with the term they employed to describe themselves, Dharma and Deen (both meaning ways of life), and an emphatic assertion of the Oneness of God (Ekam Sat: La Ilaha Illallah), Islam and Hinduism share the vision of a moral order prevailing in the universe. Both dharmas inform us of cosmic agencies keeping an account of all our deeds for which we will be made accountable.

Both talk about life after death.


Despite the philosophy of advaita (non-duality), the Sanskrit term for Oneness of God preached so strongly in the Vedas, the vast majority of Hindus worship images of a multiplicity of gods. This naturally raises questions about Hinduism’s real commitment. But it is only natural for an ancient religion to have allowed idol-worship to its followers who were not intellectually mature enough thousands of years ago to grasp the Rigveda idea of ‘One Being, neither male nor female, above all conditions and limitations of personality and of human nature’.  As the latest religion, Islam bans idol-worship, for in its view, humanity has grown mature enough to do without the crutches of idols. But even today, many Muslims look for similar crutches in Dargahs and Khanqahs of various sorts. Kashmiri Sufis’ oft-expressed love of idols can be seen in this context.


While their perception of humanity’s intellectual level is understandably different, both Islamic and Hindu scriptures accord the highest value to intelligence, reason, buddhi. The Holy Quran’s repeated emphasis on reason and education is well known. No wonder the advent of Islam had heralded a period of great intellectual and scientific achievements that was also instrumental in propelling the Europeans from Dark Ages to Enlightenment. The use of reason is regarded as one of the ten principles of Hindu Dharma as well. The greatest prayer in Vedas asks inspiration for intelligence. Even the Gayatri mantra calls for ‘an unerring guidance to our intellects.’ In Yogavasistha, the redoubtable sage Vasistha exhorts Sri Ram Chandra to “discard irrationality even if it comes from the creator himself.”[21] No wonder our ancient Hindu ancestors had led the world in nearly all disciplines of scientific and artistic endeavour for several millennia.


Hinduism has been likened to a vast sponge, absorbing all that it can. As an ancient Deen it has to do that in order to stay modern. (The Vedas claim to predate Creation. This is confirmed by the Bible: ‘In the beginning was the word’[22]. Hinduism has gracefully accepted a modified version of Islamic laws of divorce and property rights to women. Indian Constitution, largely prepared by Hindus, is based on the Hindu-Muslim ideal of equal respect for all religions. It gracefully accepts the Islamic ideal of human and gender equality. Similarly Islam teaches us to practice Ijtihad, that is accepting new ideas in order to keep up with changing times.[23] 


Islam also enjoins upon its followers to respect and learn from all the previous prophets. The Holy Quran, for instance, does not go into a detailed discussion of the Oneness of God. It does not teach techniques of meditation and concentration on God, though these are vital elements of prayer. There is no need. The Hindu scriptures, our Adi-granth, had done that much earlier. They tackle the question of the unity of God from all possible angles and teach such a variety of techniques of meditation so much so that the world is flocking to India to learn them. Our philosophies are complimentary, not contradictory. In any case the richness of Hindu philosophy and its openness to all competing ideas themselves ensure that it treats all new ideas as complimentary rather than contradictory. The spiritual symbiosis is an obvious fact. We only need to study and reflect with an open mind.


Kashmiri Sufism is primarily Islamic in spirit


The most widespread of the chief sects of Islam is the Sufi, or Mystical. The orthodox divines, following the Quran, taught from the first that the nature of man was utterly unlike that of God, and hence the idea of a divine incarnation was, and is, abhorrent to Islam. Yet there have always been Moslem seekers after a Way by which man could attain real communion with God. They taught that by meditation, mystical rites and asceticism, following the example of illuminated teachers, it was possible for the believer to have direct touch with Allah, such as the mere observance of the law of religion could not give. In their teaching about God and the creature some of them confused the two and fell into pantheism, and for a long time they were considered heretics. But about A.D. 1000 the great doctor Al Ghazzali, who had been brought back from scepticism by a vision of inner enlightenment, established the position of the Sufis as a legitimate sect in orthodox Islam.[24]


Kashmiriyat and indeed Sufism in general are under attack today from a political and fundamentalist version of Islam that considers them a deviation from Islam. A fundamentalist scholar Mr. Yusuf Hejazi[25], for instance, wrote in a long essay recently: “Both the terms Sufi and Sufism and Sufi beliefs have no basis from the traditional Islamic sources of the Quran and Sunnah, a fact even admitted by them. Rather, Sufism is in essence a conglomerate consisting of extracts from a multitude of other religions with which Sufi's interacted. Although it began as a move towards excessive Ibaadah (prayer), such practices were doomed to lead to corruption, since their basis did not come from authentic religious doctrines, but rather from exaggerated human emotions. By examining the mystic doctrines of Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism and other religions, it becomes clear how closer Sufism is to these religions than to Islam.”


One of the main fundamentalist grouse against Sufism is what Hejazi mentions as Corruption of Tawheed in Allah's Attributes.  He says: Sufis totally deny all of Allah's Attributes, such as His Face, His Hands, His Istawaa etc, using metaphorical meanings to explain His Attributes. Although the Companions and Tabi'een believed in them without any resemblance to His creation, the Sufi's deem His Attributes to be a part of His creation.”


It would be clear to any one with a modicum of knowledge of Islam that it is Hejazi’s version of fundamentalist Islam that is indeed a deviation from Islam and not the Sufi beliefs and practices. Talking about Allah’s face and hands and other attributes is clearly a deviation, indeed a major deviation from the concept of a formless God that even Muslim children are aware of as an integral part of Islam.


Much is also made of the Kashmiri Sufi’s belief in reincarnation. That reincarnation is a Hindu belief is well known. But it is not known that the Quran refers as Kafir (non-believer) any one who doesn’t believe in the possibility of rebirth. Most notable in this context are the verses of the great mystic, Hazrat Jalal-ud-Deen Rumi, describing the process of evolution through reincarnation - from mineral and plant to animal and man and then to angelhood and beyond.[26]


Another great mystic Mansur al-Hallaj, famous for his formulation, Anal Haq (I am The Truth: Aham Brahmo Asmi) had written:


 “Like the herbage I have sprung up many a time on the banks of flowing rivers.

 For a hundred thousand years I have lived and worked in every sort of body.”[27]


The Quran itself seems quite clear: ”And you were dead, and He brought you back to life. And He shall cause you to die, and shall bring you back to life, and in the end shall gather you unto Himself.” [28]


The words ‘you were dead’ can only mean that they had lived before becoming dead. And the words “in the end shall gather you unto Himself” could very well mean the attainment of moksha rather than what is usually interpreted as an eternal life in Heaven or Hell. 


Some other verses frpm the Quran are also relevant, using the translation of Dr. Abdi:


As the rains turn the dry earth into green thereby yielding fruits, similarly God brings the dead into life so that thou mayest learn.[29]


And He sent down rains from above in proper quantity and He brings back to life the dead earth, similarly ye shall be reborn.[30]


Thou who doubt immortality) are dead and they do not know when they will be born again. Your God is peerless and those who have no faith in the ultimate have perverse hearts and they want to pose as great men.[31]


Dr. Abdi remarks that “commentator Ayashi on the authority of Imam Baqer says that the ultimate referred to in the foregoing verse really mean Rajat (reincarnation), or going up and down, and …that Rajat means rebirth in this world of great Holy Beings as well as of well known kafirs before Qiyamat (resurrection) …Kafir means the perverse.” In this relation Abdi again quotes from the Koran: The Kafirs “have sworn by the strongest oath that one who dies shall not be reborn. Surely they will be reborn and this law is perfect but people who do not possess wisdom do not comprehend it.” [32]

 “Commentator Qummi quoting Imam Jafer, the well-known authority in the Islamic world, say that (this) mean rebirth to be undergone before entering the Heaven world.” [33]


In a series of articles, “Reincarnation––Islamic Conceptions,” M.H. Abdi, a Moslem scholar, expresses some interesting thoughts on how rebirth gradually lost popularity in Islam:


“The position adopted by the successive luminaries who followed (Mohammed) was to affirm the belief in reincarnation but not to propagate it as a teaching for the masses. The attitude was due to psychological reasons. The emphasis in Islamic teachings has throughout been on the purity of action.


“Another factor to remember is that the defensive wars, which have been described as Jihad or holy wars, which the Muslims fought in the early days and the wars of conquests (therefore not holy) which the Muslims fought in later days…gave a different shift to Islamic teachings. Philosophical, mystical and ethical teachings received an impetus in the first phase but they had subdued existence in the later phase. During this phase the republican character of the State was changed into monarchy and the supremacy no more belonged to the saints and philosophers.


“A subject like reincarnation demands a subtle mental attitude. It entails understanding of the higher planes of consciousness, the laws of cause and effect and the working of the laws of evolution. The monarchs had no interest in such subjects. Like so many other teachings, reincarnation was confined to the study and attention of the outer and inner students of Sufism…(However,) there is no danger for a Muslim being called a heretic if he believes and expresses himself in favour of reincarnation.” [34]


Many Muslims look at the concept of rebirth in the context of resurrection on the Day of Judgement alone. But it needs to be remembered that the concept of Day is derived from the concept of Time and our concept of Time is an entirely earthly concept. As the Holy Quran is the word of God, the concept of Time contained there must be a Divine concept. The Divine, let us remember is eternal, Timeless. For all we know, we may already be going through the Day of Judgement.


Scholars like Reynold A Nicholson have studied the subject of Islamic mysticism objectively and in detail. His conclusion is clearly that there is a basis for Sufism in orthodox Islam itself. Mohammedan orthodoxy in its present shape owes much to Ghazali, and Ghazali himself was a Sufi.[35]


Nicholson says: His (Prophet Mohammad’s) deeper instinct craved a direct revelation from God to the soul. There are no contradictions in the logic of feeling. Mohammed, who had in him something of the mystic, felt God both as far and near, both as transcendent and immanent. In the latter respect, Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth, a Being who works in the world and in the soul of man.


“If My servant ask thee about Me, lo, I am near”[36];

“We (God) are nearer to him than his own neck-vein”[37]); “And in the earth are signs to those of real faith, and in yourselves. What! Do ye not see?”[38].


“It was a long time ere they saw. The Moslem consciousness, haunted by terrible visions of the wrath to come, slowly and painfully awoke to the significance of those liberating ideas.


“The verses which I have quoted do not stand alone, and however unfavourable to mysticism the Koran as a whole may be, I cannot assent to the view that it supplies no basis for a mystical interpretation of Islam. This was worked out in detail by the Sufis, who dealt with the Koran in very much the same way as Philo treated the Pentateuch. But they would not have succeeded so thoroughly in bringing over the mass of religious Moslems to their side, unless the champions of orthodoxy had set about constructing a system of scholastic philosophy that reduced the divine nature to a purely formal, changeless, and absolute unity, a bare will devoid of all affections and emotions, a tremendous and incalculable power with which no human creature could have any communion or personal intercourse whatsoever. That is the God of Mohammedan theology. That was the alternative to Sufism. Therefore, “all thinking, religious Moslems are mystics,” as Professor D B Macdonald, one of our best authorities on the subject, has remarked. And he adds: “All, too, are pantheists, but some do not know it.”[39]


Nicholson goes on to study the similarities and differences in Sufi, Buddhist and Hindu thoughts. The Sufis learned the use of rosaries from Buddhist monks, and, without entering into details, it may be safely asserted that the method of Sufism, so far as it is one of ethical self-culture, ascetic meditation, and intellectual abstraction, owes a good deal to Buddhism. But the features, which the two systems have in common, only accentuate the fundamental difference between them. In spirit they are poles apart. The Buddhist moralizes himself; the Sufi becomes moral only through knowing and loving God.


Nicholosn concludes that mysticism has its origins within Islam itself, no matter how much it may have gained from its interactions from Christianity, Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism, Buddhism and Hinduism. The receptivity of Islam to foreign ideas has been recognized by every unbiased inquirer, and the history of Sufism is only a single instance of the general rule…Even if Islam had been miraculously shut off from contact with foreign religions and philosophies, some form of mysticism would have arisen within it, for the seeds were already there. Of course, we cannot isolate the internal forces working in this direction, since they were subject to the law of spiritual gravitation. The powerful currents of thought discharged through the Mohammedan world by the great non-Islamic systems above mentioned gave a stimulus to various tendencies within Islam which affected Sufism either positively or negatively. As we have seen, its oldest type is an ascetic revolt against luxury and worldliness; later on the prevailing rationalism and scepticism provoked counter movements toward intuitive knowledge and emotional faith, and also an orthodox reaction which in its turn drove many earnest Moslems into the ranks of mystics.


How, it may be asked, could a religion founded on the simple and austere monotheism of Mohammed tolerate these new doctrines, much less make terms with them? It would seem impossible to reconcile the transcendent personality of Allah with an immanent Reality which is the very life and soul of the universe. Yet Islam has accepted Sufism, The Sufis, instead of being excommunicated, are securely established in the Mohammedan church, and the Legend of the Moslem Saints records the wildest excesses of oriental pantheism.




Kashmiriyat represents the best fruit of centuries of interaction between ancient Indian traditions and Islam. It is a synthesis of various religious traditions that has evolved over the centuries. But this could not have been possible without a spiritual symbiosis that exists between Islam and pre-Islamic religions, philosophies and traditions. Kashmiriyat is under attack now from fundamentalist Islam that calls Sufism a deviation from Islam. A continued peaceful co-existence of the Hindu and Muslim communities in South Asia is essential for the further evolution of Kashmiriyat. This demands that we rediscover the spiritual symbiosis between Islam and pre-Islamic traditions. It also needs to be remembered that though Kashmiri Sufism has evolved through an interaction with pre-Islamic ideas, in essence it remains primarily an Islamic movement. Above all, we must remember that Prophet Mohammed has himself affirmed that the Holy Quran has an esoteric foundation: It was “sent in seven dialects; and in every one of its sentences there is an external and an internal meaning…I received from the messenger of God two kinds of knowledge: One of these I taught… (but) if I had taught them the other it would have broken their throats.” [40]



[1] In the introduction to his English translation of Rajatrangini, G.M.D. Sufi

[2] Preaching of Islam, G.M.D. Sufi

[3] The Valley of Kashmir as quoted in G.M.D. Sufi’s book

[4] Prof. Abdul Qaiyum Rafiqi Sufism in Kashmir


[5] Rafiqi Sufism in Kashmir


[6]  Rafiqi Sufism in Kashmir


[7] A.Ab., ff. 67b-68a).


[8] (R.N., f. 140a)


[9] (Nur-Nama. P. 39. Poem 6)


[10] (Ibid. p 154, poem 123)



[11] Masnavi Jalaluddin Rumi

[12] Encyclopaedia Bitannica


[13] Dara Shikoh–– (Dara Shikuh, Risala-i-Haq-numa, pp 24,26)


[14] G.M.D. Sufi

[15] G. M. d. Sufi

[16] --- (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. Vol.5\1, p.168\56. Hasrat, Dara Shikoh, pp. 260-68)


[17] Idries Shah


[18] --- (Dara Shikuh, Husana: ul-Arifin, p.16) [From Dara Shikoh in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol.5; no.t.p.168]




[19] G.M.d. Sufi

[20] Maulana Navid Usmani in  Kya ham Musalman Hai

[21] yogavasishta

[22]    John: 1:1-4

[23] The Religion of Islam by Maulana Mohammad Ali

[24]  (An Outline of the Religion of Islam, By Rev. H. U. Weitbrecht Stanton (e) The Mystics (Sufi) pg. 29-30


[25] Yusuf Hejazi on the website of Islamic Students' Society Of McGill


[26] Masnavi Maulana Roomi

[27] mansur al-Hallaj

[28] (Sura 2:28)


[29] (Chapter 8 - Sura Iraf – Meccan Verses 6-6-13)


[30] Chapter 25 – Sura Zakhraf – Meccan Verses 5-10-6

[31]  Chapter 14 – Sura Nahel – Verses 2-12-8




[32] Chapter 14 – Sura Nahel Verses 4-0-10    


[33] Theosophy in Pakistan, October-December 1964; January-March 1965


[34] -(Theosophy in Pakistan, Karachi, October-December 1965)


[35] Reynold A. Nicholson: Sufis: The Mystics of Islam – as quoted in Understanding Mysticism, Chapter 11

[36] The Holy Quran 2.182

[37]  The Holy Quran 50.15

[38] The Holy Quran 51.20-21

[39] Reynold A. Nicholson Sufis: The Mystics of Islam – as quoted in Understanding Mysticism, Chapter 11


[40] The Sayings of Mohammed, Quoted in Reincarnation and Islam, pp. 4-5