Islam in Kashmir
Islam is the major religion practiced in Kashmir, with 97.16% of the region's population identifying as Muslims, as of 2014. Islam came to the region with the influx of Muslim Sufis preachers from Central Asia and Persia, beginning the early 14th century. The majority of the Kashmiri Muslims are of the Sunni religious persuasion, with Kashmiri Shias accounting for about 5-10 per cent of the population. Non-Kashmiri Muslims in Kashmir include semi-nomadic cowherds and shepherds, belonging to the Gujjar and Bakarwal communities.
Minority religious groups in Kashmir include 1.84% Hindus, 0.88% Sikhs, and 0.11% Buddhists.
Early period of Islamic contact
During the 8th century,the Kingdom of Kashmir was subjected to several attacks aimed at its conquest. The Umayyads conquered Turkistan, Kabul, and Kashgar. Their conquests were further consolidated by the early Abbasids. In 751 C.E, Arabs gained victory over the Chinese and compelled them to abandon Gilgit and their other territories in the extreme west. Though these conquests brought Arabs within the vicinity of the Kingdom of Kashmir, no attempt was made at its invasion from the north. However, several attempts to conquer Kashmir were made by the Arabs who had established themselves in Sindh (711-13 C.E), under the leadership Muhammad bin Qasim. During the reign of Raja Chandrapida, Muhammad bin Qasim marched from Mutan to the borders of Kashmir kingdom. The Raja sent an envoy to the Chinese emperor asking for help against the Arabs, but, no aid was received. Muhammad bin Qasim was recalled by the Umayyad Caliph to Damascus, thus averting the possible invasion. In the reign of Caliph Hisham (724-43 C.E), the Arabs again marched towards Kashmir under the leadership of ambitious and energetic leadership of the governor Junaid. Lalitaditya Muktapida (724–60 CE), the Raja (ruler) of Kashmir, defeated Junaid and overran his kingdom. However, this victory was not decisive as further attempts to invade were made by the Arabs, but Lalitaditya was able to stem the tide of these advances. A last attempt at the invasion of the Kashmir Kingdom was made by Hisham ibn 'Amr al-Taghlibi, the Governor of Sindh, appointed by Caliph Mansur (754-75 C.E). Though he reached as far as the southern slopes of the Himalayas, which were a part of the Kashmir Kingdom, he failed to enter, and occupy the valley.
After the Arabs, it was the Ghaznavids who attempted to conquer Kashmir. Mahmud of Ghazni, known for his numerous invasions into India, defeated Raja Jaipal (1002 C.E), the ruler of Waihand (near Peshawar, in modernday Pakistan).Anandpal, the son and successor of Jaipal, also suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Mahmud in 1009 C.E., and died a few years later. Anandpal's son Trilochanpala, whose power of influence was now confined only to the Salt Range, appealed to Samgramaraja (1003-28 C.E), the king of Kashmir, for help against Mahmud. A large army contingent was sent by Samgramaraja, who joined Trilochanpala's forces, and won a battle against a reconnaissance party of Sultan Mahmud. Seeing this, Mahmud personally advanced for battle and defeated Trilochanpala in 1014 C.E. Provoked by Samgramaraja's conduct, Mahmud decided to invade Kashmir, and punish him. Mahmud advanced towards Kashmir and tried entering the kingdom via the Toshamaidan Pass. His progress was checked by the strong Loharkot Fort, which he besieged for a month. Owing to the heavy snowfall, which cut off Mahmud's communications, he was compelled to retreat. However, the Sultan again set out to invade Kashmir in September–October, 1021 C.E, but was again compelled to retreat due to bad weather conditions.
Establishment of Muslim rule and conversion to Islam
After Sultan Mahmud's attempted conquests, Kashmir remained generally unaffected by invasions that were aimed at the plains of India, up until 1320 C.E. The Loharas (1003-1320 C.E.) ruled during this period, and was the last of the Hindu dynasties of Kashmir. In the spring of 1320, a Mongol chieftain by the name of Zulju, invaded Kashmir via the Jehlum Valley route. Suhadeva (1301–20 C.E), last ruler of the Loharas, tried to organize resistance, but failed due to his unpopularity among the masses. The reason for this unpopularity was financial exaction and general misrule that prevailed during the end period of the Lohara Dynasty. Zulju's invasion created havoc and Suhadeva fled to Kistwar. Rinchana, son of a Ladakhi chief, who was employed by Ramacandra (Prime Minister of Kashmir) to establish law and order, took advantage of the chaos. He got Ramacandra murdered, occupied the Kashmir throne by the end of the year 1320, and ruled until his death in 1323 C.E. In order to gain acceptance of Kashmiris, he married Kota Rani, the daughter of Ramacandra, and made Rawancandra (Ramacandra's son) his commander in chief. Rinchan converted to Islam after coming into contact with Sayyid Sharfudin, a Sufi preacher commonly known as Bulbul Shah, who had come to Kashmir during the reign of Suhadeva. He changed his name to Sultan Sardarudin Shah after converting to Islam, and thus became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Following the conversion of Rinchan, his commander in chief also became Muslim. The royal patronage for Islam won it new converts, and according to one source, many Kashmiris embraced the creed of Bulbul Shah.
The period after Sultan Sardarudin's death was marked by chaos and power tussle. Udayanadeva, the brother of Suhadeva, was made the ruler after an agreement among the nobles. However, he proved to be incompetent, and it was Kota Rani who was the virtual ruler. Soon after Udayanadeva's accession, a foreign chieftain attacked Kashmir, but the invaders were successfully repelled and defeated. However, the administration again fell into chaos. Udayanadeva had fled the country in sight of the attack, and lost his prestige in the eyes of the nobles. He died in the year 1338 C.E, and Kota Rani ascended the throne. But, Shah Mir, a nobleman employed earlier by Suhadeva, had other ambitions. A period of battle ensued between him and Kota Rani, and in 1339 C.E, Shah Mir captured the throne.
The Shahmiri Dynasty (1339- 1561 C.E), founded by Sultan Shah Mir, ruled Kashmir for the next 222 years.
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