By Mumtaz Ahmad Numani
The ecology of religion with special reference to Sufi Saint-Mulla Shah Badakhshi, in Kashmir
Briefly and purposefully, this article has been written to fulfil the task of bringing some new points in light. It will show a tendency of bringing an attention of scholars working on Sufism that much of the scholarly writings of Mulla Shah and writings penned on him are yet to be explored at length. In short, this article will serve the motive to shed light on the ecology of religion with special reference to Sufi Saint Mulla Shah Badakhshi, in Kashmir.
Kashmir constitutes, demonstrates and reflects a special area in the history of Islam. Islam in Kashmir was introduced by Muslim missionaries and Sufis. Since the Sufis from Central Asia began to pour into the picturesque valley, Kashmir became widely known, a valley which is full of Pirs and Sufi Saints—Rish Waer or Pir Waer-- a name given to it by its locals. Among the various Sufi Silsilah (Orders), even if, Qadri Silsilah poured late in Kashmir, yet it received a deep reverence and to this end, it achieved a wider acceptance in the valley. Even Mughals, like Shahjahan, Dara Shukoh, Jahan Ara and several other courtiers of the Imperial court were deeply devoted to the famous Qadiri Sufi Saint Mulla Shah Badakhshi, in Kashmir.
Shah Muhammad, known as Mulla Shah Badakhshi, was a pious poet and an eminent Quadri Sufi who lived in Kashmir. Mulla Shah belonged to Arkasa, a village in Badakhshan. From childhood, Mulla Shah had a spirit for higher religious studies and to that end he possessed a keen intellectual wisdom. Since his persuasion was towards religious sciences, the study of other sciences did not qualify to satisfy his spiritual quest. To seek it, Mulla Shah crossed the limits of every struggle and finally came in touch of famous Sufi Saint Mian Mir in Lahore, who later turned to be his spiritual mentor and master. On his very first meeting with Mian Mir, Mulla Shah expressed his long cherished desire to get enrolled as one of his disciples. We are told that, Mian Mir was living a highly principled life. His spirit was that, he did not like to admit any one as his disciple without assessing the aptitude and readiness of the seeker to undergo the hardships and severe penances in traversing the spiritual path. But Mulla shah with zeal and zest took up to stand for all the tests of his spiritual preceptor, till Mian Mir acknowledged him as his disciple. It is reported that Mulla Shah rendered an unfeigned selfless service to his spiritual mentor for more than twenty years. Interestingly, Mulla Shah in among his companions was known by several different names. His spiritual preceptor, Mian Mir, used to call him Muhammad Shah. To his faithful friends he was known as Akhwand. And Dara Shukoh tells us, Almighty God has rewarded him a unique name: Lisanulllah, [Voice of God and/or who speaks the tongue of God]. To our best understanding, the following verses may clarify it more:
The person who is well acquainted with the path of spiritualism, he is Mullah Shah, who knows this spiritual path. It becomes known by the manner of his speaking, today his name is Lisanullah.
After spending a long time with Mian Mir, Mulla Shah raised his spiritual power. Showing obedience to the order of his spiritual preceptor he moved with a few companions to settle in Kashmir. In Kashmir, the place Mulla Shah selected as his permanent abode was known as Koh-i-Maran [Hariparbat], naturally a beautiful spot near to the historical mountain called Takht-i-Sulaiman. Dara Shukoh and Jahan Ara fulfilled a keen desire of their spiritual preceptor when they got erected a Mosque, a Khanqah and a Madrasah (residential school of Sufism—commonly known as Pari Mahall, near Chashma-i Shahi, Srinagar) for him. We are told that, emperor Shahjahan visited Kashmir to see the Mosque and Khanqah of Mulla Shah. Shahjahan praised the lovely construction of Mosque and wished that everyone who would come to this place, at least should offer Friday prayer in this magnificent Mosque. Unfortunately the same Mosque is now in ruined condition for years.
In Koh-i-Maran, writes Fatima Bilgrami, there were two fountains, beautiful and sweet watered, one was called Chashm-i-Qutla, and the other was called Chash-i-Simla. Dara and Jahan Ara repaired and reconstructed these fountains and named them Chashma-i-Shahiyah and Chashma-i-Sahibiyah. The name Chashma-i Sahibiyah was given by Mulla Shah because of Jahan Ara. Mulla Shah with his companions paid several visits and considered them superior to all the buildings, fountains and gardens of Kashmir. He would call Chashma-i Shahibiyah, the eyes of Kashmir and Chashma-i Shahiyah its soul and wrote verses praising their serenity and natural Surroundings.
The story of these watered fountains which Bilgrami does mention is testified by the fact when Dara Shukoh himself tells us, “this talk is not hidden that for four months I had remained in Shaikhupora [name of a village in Lahore now in Pakistan], when emperor Shahjahan intentioned to conquer Balkh and Badakhshan. From there, I had been deported to Kashmir, to get the Marble pieces reached over there, which were to be placed and/or fixed for the maintenance and construction of Chashma-i-Qutla.”
It won’t be incorrect to say that, Mulla Shah was a nature loving person. In correct words, he was a naturalist, who loved things to be quite natural. The following incident will speak us more. It says, “one-day Hazrat Shah [Mulla Shah] in a visit went to Pargana Lakh [name of an area, in Kashmir]. During his visit, he took a stroll to a beautiful place, where he found a neat and clean water stream that gushes out of the mountain. He observed that, this gushing water is making the land green, fresh and delightful. This caught the attention of Hazrat, who loved it very much and said, it is one of the wonders of this pious land which is the like to be given a concrete shape. At the same place was a house—name of which place is Beha’ma. Mulla Shah stopped at this place for some days. There he built a building and made a garden.
Later, the well wishers of Hazrat Shah who came to his city [place] got constructed this building and garden in a concrete form. The truth is that, the place was wonderful and its climate and atmosphere proved it to be so. In the whole of Kashmir valley, no other place could have been such a pleasing one. We are told that, Alamgir Aurangzeb came to Kashmir in 1074 Higieri [1664 A. D.] which has been given the status of I’dan Garden. While-after, he appeared in the Be’hama garden and asked people to the whereabouts of Mulla Shah, who lived there in solitude for spiritual meditation. Hearing this, people pointed out the Cell “Hujra” of Mulla Shah. Immediately, Aurangzeb prepared a fresh ablution and entered into the Cell, offered two ra’kat Namaz [prayer] and sat there for a few minutes in meditation.”
The above story tells us much about Mulla Shah’s ecology of religion. In short, Mulla Shah says Dara Shukoh was a real pedagogue, a sincere and God gifted person who does know a lot about seen and unseen things. He preferred to have prayer and meditation in the darkness of his Cell. One day I [Dara Shukoh] visited to Mulla Shah, he [Mulla Shah] asked someone to light the lamp and turning towards me [Dara Shukoh] he said, I [Mulla Shah] have ordered the light only for you. He then recited:
Tr. [In this isolated house of ours, we do not use to have a candle for light, it is only of your passion of love that illuminates our abode].
And he continued:
Tr. [If you would like to know what this darkness is, then listen, this too is a gift of illumination from God. It is in this darkness where I found the property of unending life in it and it is here in this darkness where one gets spiritual enlightenment. I do know many hidden things besides all this but it is not too suitable to get them disclosed over here].
Mumtaz Ahmad Numani is Research Student, A M U. Aligarh