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Kashmir Has Legacy of Rejecting Communalism: Islamised Reshiyyat Appropriates, Buddhist, Saivite and Other Indian Traditional Philosophical Thought Currents And Is Not To Be Construed As An Appendage To Them


By M Maroof Shah

5 December 2014

It is perceived that we are today in the grip of a communalist politics. Let me hazard a prediction. It will not take roots in Kashmir because we have a long legacy of rejection of communalism. Anything that rejects the mystical or that imposes a sectarian or fundamentalist approach here can’t sustain. Historical and cultural forces are too strong to be appropriated into narrow ideological ends by any politician. It is commonly believed that during medieval times in Kashmir dialogue between Islam and indigenous religious traditions of Kashmir didn’t happen on any level and it was a question of either or with regard to acceptance or rejection of new religious identity.

Communalist interpretations have coloured views of many scholars and common people because religions have been approached as exclusive categories. We need to revisit the Reshi tradition as a space where dialogue happened and keeps going on in Sufi poets until today to question usual exclusive and communalist views that colour even current Kashmiri politics. I use insights from perennialist’s traditionalist approach to comparative religion to situate the problem in a new light.

One can begin by noting with the traditionalists and many other scholars of comparative religion that none of the traditional religions is at loggerheads with any other tradition when properly approached with due consideration to deeper esoteric and metaphysical content and symbolism. Thus we can say that Hinduism or Buddhism and Islam are not as divergent at deeper level as literalist theological reading of Islam would have us believe. Originally every human collectivity has been blessed by the presence of prophets according to the Quran. Vedanta, Kashmir Saivism and Buddhism are not dualistic or polytheistic but essentially Unitarian or Tawhid centred traditions if one grants Sufistic-metaphysical understanding of Tawhid as the correct view of it in place of dualistic theological reading. These are all Absolute-centric tradition and this Absolute is not to be subsumed under the theistic theology. Despite distortions and extrapolations in subsequent centuries it is still possible to unearth the core of Tawhid in these religions. Spiritually or mystically one can easily see how all religions are oriented towards God and none allows associating partners with God, the popular “polytheistic” idolatrous interpretation or mask of Hinduism not withstanding as it is quite heterodox reading of originally Unitarian traditions. Abdul Wahid Yaha and Isa Nuruddin, arguably the greatest metaphysicians and authorities on comparative religion in the 20th century, demonstrate that there is no pantheism, no idealism, no rebirth, no individualist subjectivist mysticism as ordinarily understood in orthodox Hindu traditions.

The intimate dialogue between Saivism and Islam in Kashmir as exemplified in relationship between Lalla and Sheikh-ul-Alam is possible only because the masters are situated at esoteric and metaphysical plane where theological divergence largely ceases. Let us try to understand why after Rumi death Christians and Jews is mourned that Rumi taught them deeper meanings of their own traditions. We need to understand why Lalla’s religion is still a matter of passionate debate and why late Amin Kamil pushed for his Nunda and how Shazanand could be used as a title for Sheikh-ul-Alam. This will help us to understand the poem in praise of Buddha attributed to Sheikh-ul-Alam.

Some critics here are needlessly apologetic about using the word Reshi by Sheikh Nuruddin. It suffices to mention that it was the Sheikh who opted for this terminology and found no need of another term such as Wali for describing himself and his disciples. Had the Sheikh adopted the strategy suggested by our critics, which emphasizes differences instead of common points and wishes to prove that the advent of Islam was a radical break from the traditional past of Kashmir; Islam could hardly have been firmly planted in Kashmir. It was great catholic, assimilati1ng and appropriating genius of the great Sheikh to Islamise Reshi movement and it opened Islam for natives. Loud recital of Durood, Awraad etc. was another strategy to show Islam’s assimilating potential.

Thank God Syed Ali Hamdani had no advisors to censure him for these “un-Islamic” innovations, as otherwise Islam’s diffusion in the masses would have been more difficult.  Our Sufi poets have appropriated pre-Islamic notions and allusions and nothing can be done to edit them from a supposedly Islamic perspective. Sufis are at home in different traditions and don’t feel Islam is polluted or in danger if one appropriates other than Islamic mythological or linguistic resources.

It must be noted that Sufism can’t be practised outside the doctrinal framework of Islam. The fact is that post Nuruddin, Kashmir is Islamic Kashmir that has already appropriated the best of spiritual genius of India. Islamised Reshiyyat appropriates, for all practical purposes, Buddhist, Saivite and other Indian traditional philosophical thought currents and is not to be construed as an appendage to them. By practicing Islam in all its depths, one practices all religions, as Abdul Wahid Yaha (Rene Guenon) said, who wrote, despite being a Muslim, many greatly acclaimed and sympathetic works on Hinduism. We must not allow encroaching of Islamic identity of Sufism or present day Reshiyyat in the name of superficial syncretism. We must understand that at juristic level Sheikh-ul-Alam could have emphatically meant Hendenheinz Kami Travavto and still uphold Unitarian vision of Tawhid that perceives brotherhood of spirit and opens up to the religious other. We say in Kashmir that Adam had two sons, one chose grave and the other awren. Mirwaiz Ami Sahib is reported to pray for the safe coming of Hindu pilgrims from their pilgrimage in Kashmir.