Islam arrived in Kashmir starting with the conversion in 1323 of Kashmir's Buddhist ruler, Rinchan, at the hands of the saint, Sayyid Bilal Shah (also known as Bulbul Shah). After conversion to Islam he called himself Malik Sadur-ud-Din and was the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Islam grew in the 14th century under the Shah Mir reign and numerous Muslim ulama from Central Asia came to preach in Kashmir. Some of the famous ulama who spread Islam in Kashmir included Sayyid Bilal Shah, Sayyid Jalaluddin, Sayyid Tajuddin, Sayyid Ḥusayn Simani, Sayyid Ali Ḥamadani, Mir Muḥammad Hamadani, and Shaykh Nuruddin.
Sayyid Ali Hamadani (also known as Shah-yi Hamadan) made immense contributions towards the spread of Islam in Kashmir. He and hundreds of his followers converted thousands of Kashmiris to Islam. His son Sayyid Muḥammad Hamadani also propagated Islam and influenced Kashmir's Muslim ruler Sikander (who reigned from 1389–1413) to enforce Islamic law. By the late 1400s the majority of the population had embraced Islam. Since the arrival of invaders and the start of religious conflicts, before the Partition of India, many Kashmir Hindus and Buddhists migrated to other regions.
In 1557 the Shah Miri dynasty was overthrown by the Chaks who were foreigners to Kashmir and originated from Baltistan. Since they were from outside Kashmir they were not interested in the Kashmiri population's welfare. The Chak rulers, who were Shia, persecuted their Sunni subjects and this caused Sunni scholars to flee to safer environs. Some disenchanted Sunnis, such as notable Sunni scholar, Sheikh Yaqub Sarfi, went to the court of Akbar and invited the Mughals to conquer Kashmir and overthrow Chak rule on certain conditions. These conditions included a guarantee of Kashmiri rights such as freedom of religion for all of Kashmir's population. Shaikh Yaqub Sarfi also forbade Sunnis from carrying out any reprisal against Shias and he devoted his life to restoring peace and communal harmony between the Sunnis and Shias of Kashmir.
Kashmiri historians see Mughal rule as the beginning of the end of Kashmiri independence. The Mughal Emperor Akbar succeeded in invading the Kashmir Valley, despite tough Kashmiri resistance, due to internal Sunni-Shia divisions amongst Kashmiris. The anti-Shia policies of Mirza Haidar Dughlat and the anti-Sunni policies of the Chaks had broken Kashmiri unity, thus paving the way for the Mughal occupation of Kashmir.
Akbar's victory brought an end to indigenous Kashmiri Muslim rule. Christopher Snedden states that the Mughals began a process of psychological warfare against Kashmiris to strip them of their martial capabilities. After this, outsiders started considering Kashmiris a 'non-martial' race.
In an opinion piece for Greater Kashmir, Zahir-ud-Din states that Mughals resorted to character assassination of Kashmiris and historians say that when fighting Kashmiris Akbar's army is said to have recited the poem “Agar Qahtul Rijaal Uftund A(z)e Shaan Unus Kumgeeri, Awal Kambo Doum Afghan Soum Budzaat Kashmiri.” (Translation: If there is dearth of men in the world, never make friends with an Afghan, Kambo or Kashmiri even in such difficult times). The perpetual occupation for centuries by Mughals and later by the Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras is said to have taken a toll on Kashmiri psyche and Kashmiris have always resisted external aggression.
Conversely, Akbar also reduced the land revene demand from two-thirds, as it was earlier, to one-half of the produce. Kashmiri Hindus also felt a respite from the severe persecution they faced under the earlier Muslim rule.
The Mughals maintained a large military presence on the Valley and were not interested in developing the productive sectors although they patronised art and constructed some pleasure gardens and a few mosques. While many histories of Kashmir consider the Kashmir Valley's incorporation into Mughal India as a decline of Kashmiri independence and cultural identity, Chitralekha Zutshi argues that Kashmiri poets began to consciously articulate their sense of regional belonging during the Mughal rule. According to M.J. Akbar the clash of cultures between Delhi and Kashmir resulted in Kashmiris wishing for nothing more than to be left alone.
In 1751, the Afghans, ruled by Ahmad Shah Durrani, absorbed Kashmir into the Durrani Empire. The Afghans were cruel, especially to Kashmir's Hindus. However, Kashmiri historians state that the Afghans were brutally repressive to all Kashmiris, regardless of religion. The Afghans extorted money from the locals and both Kashmiri men and women lived in fear of their lives. The Afghans sent many Kashmiris as slaves to Afghanistan. During Afghan dominance, the shawl industry declined, probably due to heavy taxes. However, due to the administrative experience of Kashmiri Pandits, the Afghans utilised their services. Kashmiri Pandits were not prevented from entering into government service. George Foster, who visited Kashmir during the Afghan rule, documented the oppression of Kashmiris by Afghans. He writes:
The Afghans would never issue an order without a blow of the side of hatchet (battle axe). Karim Dad Khan in a mood of enjoyment would tie up the inhabitants by back in pairs and drop them in the river.
By 1819 the Sikh Empire's Maharajah Ranjit Singh finally succeeded in taking Kashmir. Initially, Kashmiris felt relieved as they had suffered under the Afghans.
In 1819 Kashmir came under Maharajah Ranjit Singh's Sikh Empire and Sikh rule over Kashmir lasted for 27 years till 1846. These 27 years of Sikh rule saw 10 Governors in Kashmir. Of these 10 Governors five were Hindus, three were Sikhs and two were Muslims. Due to the fact that Kashmiris had suffered under the Afghan rulers, they initially welcomed the Sikh rule. However, the Sikhs oppressed the population. Scholar Christopher Snedden states that the Sikhs exploited Kashmiris regardless of religion.
During the Sikh rule the mostly illiterate Muslim population suffered under heavy taxation, rural indebtedness and discrimination. The Sikhs had enacted a number of anti-Muslim policies, thus subjecting the Muslim majority population of the Valley to a number of hardships in the practice of their religion. The central mosque, Jama Masjid, was closed for 20 years and Muslims were prohibited from issuing the azan (call to prayer). If a Sikh murdered a Hindu the compensation amount allowed was four rupees. However, if a Sikh murdered a Muslim the compensation amount allowed was only two rupees.
During the Sikh rule, Europeans who visited the Valley documented the deprivation and starvation and also wrote of the abject poverty of the peasantry and the exorbitant taxes under the Sikhs. According to European traveler Moorcraft, no more than one-sixteenth of the cultivable land surface was under cultivation and due to starvation many people had fled to India. Kashmiri histories also emphasise the wretchedness of life for common Kashmiris during the Sikh rule. According to them, the peasantry became mired in poverty and migrations of Kashmiri peasants to the plains of Punjab reached high proportions. Several European travelers' accounts from the period agree and provide evidence for such assertions. When Moorcroft left the Valley in 1823, about 500 emigrants accompanied him across the Pir Panjal Pass.
The Sikhs lost their independence with the Battle of Subraon. In 1846 Kashmir came under the rule of Gulab Singh, a Hindu Dogra Maharajah under the British suzerainty.
The 1833 famine caused many people to leave the Kashmir Valley and migrate to the Punjab, with the majority of weavers leaving Kashmir. Weavers settled down for generations in the cities of Punjab such as Jammu and Nurpur. Due to the famine, the Punjabi city of Amritsar witnessed a large influx of Kashmiris. Thousands of people died during the famine of 1833 and both the famine and emigration reduced the population to one-fourth by 1836. Hindus were not much affected but Muslims were and had to leave in large numbers.
The Muslim population suffered severe oppression under Hindu rule and were subjected to heavy taxation, discriminatory laws and forced unpaid labour. The 100 year Dogra regime was a disaster for the Muslim peasantry of Kashmir Valley. Walter Lawrence described the conditions of the Valley's peasantry as being 'desperate' and noted that the Valley's peasantry attributed their miseries to the Maharajah's deputies rather than the rulers themselves. The state officials apparently kept the rulers from knowing the conditions of the Muslim peasantry in the Valley.
Lawrence in particular criticised the state officials who belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit community. Lawrence provided evidence that while many of the Kashmiri Pandit officials may have been ''individually gentle and intelligent, as a body they were cruel and oppressive.'' Scholar Ayesha Jalal states that the Maharajahs nurtured ties with Kashmiri Pandits and their Dogra kinsfolk in Jammu to trample on the rights of their subjects. Christopher Snedden also states that the Kashmiri Muslims were often exploited by the Kashmiri Pandit officials. Kashmiri Pandits had entered the state administrative machinery during the Afghan period and by the Dogra period they had become entrenched in the lower levels of the state bureaucracy. However, the Pandits were, like all Kashmiris, excluded from the upper sections of the bureaucracy, although they continued to exercise control in the countryside.
Wingate and Lawrence spent many months in the rural hinterland of Kashmir and in an unprecedented manner brought to the fore the tensions that underlay Kashmiri society between the interests of the Hindu Pandit community and the numerically preponderant Kashmiri Muslim cultivators. However, while both acknowledged the oppression of Kashmiri Muslims, the solutions offered by Lawrence and Wingate differed from each other. While both acknowledged the responsibility of the Kashmiri Pandit community in exacerbating the situation of the Muslim cultivating classes, Wingate was far more uncompromising in demanding that the privileges of the Pandit community be eliminated. However, Lawrence proposed to provide relief to Kashmir's cultivating class without eliminating the privileges of the Kashmiri Pandits.
Gawasha Nath Kaul described the poor conditions of the Valley's Muslim population in his book Kashmir Then And Now and in it he wrote that 90 percent of Muslim households were mortgaged to Hindu moneylenders. Muslims were non-existent in the State's civil administration and were barred from officer positions in the military.
Prem Nath Bazaz, one of the few Kashmiri Pandits who joined the movement for change, described the poor conditions of the Valley's Muslim population as such:
The poverty of the Muslim masses is appalling. Dressed in rags and barefoot, a Muslim peasant presents the appearance of a starved beggar...Most are landless laborers, working as serfs for absentee landlords.
There was a famine in Kashmir between 1877-9 and the death toll from this famine was overwhelming by any standards. Some authorities suggested that the population of Srinagar had been reduced by half while others estimated a diminution by three-fifths of the entire population of the Valley. During the famine of 1877-9 not a single Pandit died of starvation during these annihilative years for the Muslim cultivators, according to reports received by Lawrence. During the famine the office of Prime Minister was held by a Kashmiri Pandit, Wazir Punnu, who is said to have declared that there ''was no real distress and that he wished that no Musulman might be left alive from Srinagar to Rambhan (in Jammu).''
When lands fell fallow temporarily during the famine, Pandits took over substantial tracts of them claiming that they were uncultivated waste. Numerous Kashmiri Muslim cultivators who had left the Valley for Punjab to escape the devastation of those years found upon their return that they had been ousted from lands that they had cultivated over generations.
A large number of Muslim Kashmiris migrated from the Kashmir Valley to the Punjab due to conditions in the princely state such as famine, extreme poverty and harsh treatment by the Dogra Hindu regime (according to Prem Nath Bazaz the Kashmiri Muslims faced this harsh treatment because of their religion). According to the 1911 Census there were 177,549 Kashmiri Muslims in the Punjab. With the inclusion of Kashmiri settlements in NWFP this figure rose to 206,180.
Lawrence described the famine and its effects in his book: The Valley of Kashmir.
Later, some time before the terrible famine of 1877-79, Dr. Elmslie, who had resided in the valley for six years as a medical missionary, calculated the population of the valley to be 402,700 of these 75,000 were Hindus and the rest Musalmans...If, therefore, Dr. Elmslie's figures were approximately correct the famine removed 67,400 persons from the city and 174,220 persons from the villages. Many of these escaped with their lives to the Punjab, and many have since returned to Kashmir.
Kashmiri cuisine and culture has been greatly influenced by Central Asian and Persian culture. Kashmiri culture is defined in terms of religious values, Kashmiri language, literature, cuisine and traditional values of mutual respect. The overwhelming majority of Kashmiris are Muslims and Islamic identity plays a very important role in the daily lives of people. Kashmiris across the religious divide have for centuries shared cordial and friendly ties. Kashmir has been noted for its fine arts for centuries, including poetry and handicrafts. Shikaras, traditional small wooden boats, and houseboats are a common feature in various lakes and rivers across the Valley.
Kashmiri cuisine holds a unique place among different world cuisines. Rice is the staple food of Kashmiris and has been so since ancient times. Meat, along with rice, is the most popular food item in Kashmir. Kashmiris consume meat voraciously. Despite being Brahmin, Kashmiri Pandits are great meat eaters. Salted tea or Noon Chai is the traditional drink and is cooked in a samavar, a Kashmiri tea-pot. Kehwa, traditional green tea with spices and almond, is served on special occasions and festivals. Kashmiri weddings are regarded incomplete without the Kashmiri traditional food known as wazwan, which is typically spicy food cooked by the traditional cooks (waz). Wazwan is a multi-course meal in which almost all the dishes are meat-based.
Kashmiri (/kæʃˈmɪəri/) (कॉशुर, کأشُر), or Koshur, is spoken primarily in the Kashmir Valley and Chenab regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The language originates from Sanskrit although it received Persian influence during Muslim rule. According to many linguists, the Kashmiri language is a northwestern Dardic language of the Indo-Aryan family, descending from Middle Indo-Aryan languages. The label "Dardic" indicates a geographical label for the languages spoken in the northwester mountain regions, not a linguistic label. UCLA estimates the number of speakers as being around 4.4 million, with a preponderance in the Kashmir Valley, whereas the 2001 census of India records over 5.5 million speakers. According to the 1998 Census there were 132,450 Kashmiri speakers in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. According to Professor Khawaja Abdul Rehman the Kashmiri language is on the verge of dying out in the Neelum Valley.
Kashmiri is believed to be the only one among the Dardic languages that has a written literature. Kashmiri literature dates back to over 750 years, comparable to that of most modern languages. Kashmiri poets and writers like Mehjoor, Abdul Ahad Azad, etc. enriched the literature with their poetry.
The Kashmir Valley has a 700 year old tradition of Sufism. The Kashmir Valley is known as the ‘Pir Waer’, meaning the ‘Alcove of Sufis and Saints’. Sufism was introduced to Kashmir almost simultaneously with the foundation of Muslim rule. Kashmiris take pride in inhabiting a cultural space between Sufi Islam and Vedic Hinduism. Both the Pandits and Muslims of Kashmir respect the Shaivite mystic Lala Ded, who symbolises Kashmir's syncretic culture and both Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus also hold the shrine of Dastgeer Sahib in high esteem. People in Kashmir pay regular visits to the shrines of Sufi saints for peace of mind. It has also been a centuries old tradition in Kashmir for Sufi disciples to recite special 'Wazaif'.
In contrast, the introduction of Salafism to Kashmir only goes back to a hundred years. Salafis remained on the fringes of Kashmir's religious and cultural life since belief in the local traditions of Sufi Islam was very strong in the Valley. But this has begun to change since the insurgency in Kashmir since the late 1980s. Pakistani-trained jihadi groups hijacked the local sentiment for freedom and transformed the Kashmiri struggle into a continuation of their holy war for an Islamic caliphate, by playing on the fears of the people that Kashmir's Muslim identity was under threat of erasure. However, there has also been a proliferation in the number of Barelvi groups, claiming to be custodians of the Valley's Sufi moorings, which have sprung up to challenge the growing power of the Wahhabi faith.
Salafis say that those who frequent shrines indulge in 'grave worship' (which is forbidden in Islam). But Sufis state that it is incorrect to assume that shrine-goers indulge in grave worship. They say they visit shrines only to seek the blessings of Allah as these places are said to be sacred as great scholars are buried there.
Barelvis, Deobandis and Salafis in Kashmir have organised joint conferences to demonstrate their unity for the purpose of achieving 'freedom'.
According to French traveller Francois Bernier the Kashmiris are celebrated for their beauty. Kashmiris were considered 'well-made' like the Europeans. Marco Polo observed that the beauty of Kashmiris was superb. Fair complexion and prominent noses are the hallmarks of Kashmirs. Bhandari remarks that one is usually struck by the marked ethnic differences between Kashmiris from other races in India and Pakistan.
In 2011 a survey by Gilani Research Foundation/Gallup Pakistan found that 55 percent of Pakistanis considered Kashmiris and Pashtuns to be the best looking people in the country. 29 percent rated Kashmiris as the best looking people while 26 percent rated Pashtuns as the best looking people.
The 1921 Census report stated that Kashmiri Muslims formed 31% of the Muslim population of the entire princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. The 1921 Census report also stated that Kashmiri Muslims are sub-divided into numerous sub-castes such as Bat, Dar, Wain etc. The Kashmiri Muslim population in the 1921 Census was recorded as 796,804.
The 1931 Census report also reiterated that the 'Kashmiri Muslim' population occupied the foremost position in the State (other communities in the princely State being Arains, Jats, Sudhans, Gujjars and Rajputs etc). It recorded the Kashmiri Muslim population as 1,352,822. The 1931 Census report explains that the 'phenomenal' increase in the number of Kashmiri Muslims by 556,018 was due to several castes such as Hajjam, Hanji, Sayed and Sheikh being merged into the community.
The 1931 Census report stated that the Bat, Dar, Ganai, Khan, Lun, Malik, Mir, Pare, Rather, Shah, Sheikh and Wain were the most important sub-castes among Kashmiri Muslims. Below are the population figures for the various sub-castes among the Kashmiri Muslim population according to the 1931 Census.
The following data is from the 1931 Census.
In the early twentieth century, famines and the policies of the Dogra rulers drove many Kashmiri Muslims to flee their native land to Punjab. Kashmiri Muslims constituted an important segment of several Punjabi cities such as Sialkot, Lahore, Amritsar and Ludhiana. Kashmiris who migrated from Amritsar in 1947 have had a big influence on Lahore's contemporary cuisine and culture. The Kashmiris of Amritsar were more steeped in their Kashmiri culture than the Kashmiris of Lahore. An exclusive research conducted by the “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” showed that the Kashmiri community had been involved in spearheading the power politics of Lahore district since 1947.
Notable members of the Kashmiri Muslim diaspora in Punjab include Pakistan's current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (paternal ancestry from Anantnag), Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and politician Khawaja Asif. Another notable member of the Kashmiri Muslim diaspora in Punjab was Muhammad Iqbal (who took pride in his Brahmin ancestry and whose poetry displayed a keen sense of belonging to the Kashmir Valley). Another famous proud Kashmiri writer from Punjab was Saadat Hasan Manto.
According to the 1921 Census the total Kashmiri population in Punjab was 169,761. However, the Census report stated that only 3% of Kashmiris settled in Punjab retained their Kashmiri language. The number of people speaking Kashmiri in 1901 was 8,523 but had decreased to 7,190 in 1911. By 1921 the number of people speaking Kashmiri in Punjab had fallen to 4,690. The 1921 Census report stated that this fact showed that the Kashmiris who had settled in Punjab had adopted the Punjabi language of their neighbours. In contrast, the 1881 Census of Punjab had shown that there were 49,534 speakers of the Kashmiri language in the Punjab. The 1881 Census had recorded the number of Kashmiris in the Punjab as 179,020 while the 1891 Census recorded the Kashmiri population as 225,307 but the number of Kashmiri speakers recorded in the 1891 Census was 28,415.
Scholar Ayesha Jalal states that Kashmiris faced discrimination in the Punjab as well. Kashmiris settled for generations in the Punjab were unable to own land, including the family of Muhammad Iqbal. Scholar Chitralekha Zutshi states that Kashmiri Muslims settled in the Punjab retained emotional and familial links to Kashmir and felt obliged to struggle for the freedom of their brethren in the Valley.
Since the 1990s approximately 35,000 Kashmiri Muslims from Indian administered Kashmir have fled to Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
160,000-170,000 Kashmiri Pandits have also fled to India and to other parts of Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. A number of Kashmiri organisations have been existence for over half a century in Delhi, including Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Panun Kashmir, Vyeth Television, and N. S. Kashmir Research Institute. Notable members of the Kashmiri Pandit diaspora in India include former Indian Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
Kashmiri Hindus are all Saraswast Brahmins and are known by the exonym Pandit. Their surnames (kram) designate their original profession or their ancestors' nicknames. These include Hakim, Kaul, Dhar, Raina and Teng. The Muslims living in Kashmir are ethnically of the same stock as the Kashmiri Pandit community and are designated as 'Kashmiri Muslims'. They are descended from the Kashmiri Hindus and are also known as 'Sheikhs'.
After Kashmiri Hindus had converted to Islam they largely retained their family names (kram) which indicated their original profession, locality or community. These included surnames such as Butt, Pandit (Brahmin), Dar (kshatriya), Tantre (Tantray), Magre (Magray), Mantu, Nayak, Lone, Parry, Rather and Yatoo etc.
Common krams (surnames) found amongst the Kashmiri Muslims who migrated from the Valley to the Punjab include Bat (Butt), Dar, Lun (Lone), Wain (Wani), Mir and Shaikh. The 1881 Census of the Punjab recorded these major Kashmiri sub-divisions in the Punjab along with their population. The Bat (Butt) tribe numbered 24,463, the Dar tribe numbered 16,215, the Lun (Lone) tribe numbered 4,848, the Wain (Wani) tribe numbered 7,419, the Mir sub-division numbered 19,855 and the Sheikhs numbered 14,902. Watorfield also noted the presence of the Bat (Butt) and Dar castes amongst the Kashmiris of the town of Gujrat in Punjab.
The But/Butt of Punjab were originally Brahmin migrants from Kashmir during 1878 famine.