the Pages of History
rule in Kashmir came to an end when Shah Mir captured the throne in 1339.
He assumed the name of Sultan Shamas-ud-Din and founded the Sultan Dynasty,
which ruled the Valley for 222 years.
Sultan Sikander (1389-1413) was the most
infamous of the Sultans. He was the most intolerant, biggoted and a religious
fanatic. Because of his policy of religious persecution, there was a large
scale migration of Hindus, besides conversion. He earned the nickname of
Butshikan, the iconoclast, for resorting to the destruction of temples
and images (idols) of Hindu gods. Ironically, both his father Qutub-ud-Din
(1373-1389) and his son, the illustrious Zain-ul-Abdin (1420-1470) were
not only free from religious fanaticism but visibly liberal and just.
Liberalism of Qutub-ud-Din:
Famines were, unfortunately, of regular
occurence in Kashmir during the reign of Qutb-ud-Din. Often the severity
of the scarcity of food grains was, as always, felt in the months of June
and July. The King resorted to a novel practice of not only helping his
depressed subjects divert their attention from a constant anxiety of want
but also providing them with opportunities of sharing the stocks of grains
stored by the more fortunate. During these months of scarcity, the King,
his ministers, nobles and the affluent used to perform 'Yagnyas' and distribute
cooked food amongst the starving population irrespective of their faith.
Qutub-ud-Din allowed continuance of Hindu
dress, manners, customs among the converts to Islam. His participation
in and encouragement to the performance of Yagnyas, though for a humanistic
objective only, shows his religious tolerance and a deep sense of humanism.
The Sultan and his Muslim subjects used
to visit a temple in Alau-ud-Din Pura every morning. Qutub-ud-Din had two
wives who were sisters. This is not permissible under Muslim law. These
non-orthodox practices did not appeal to Sayyid Ali Hamdani, who exhorted
the King to divorce one of them and remarry the other according to the
tenets of Islam. He advised him to change his dress. Inspite of the fact
that the King held the saint in high esteem, he did not accept his advice.
Zain-ul-Abdin firmly believed that the
primary responsibility of the state was justice, equality and economic
prosperity. He was not only just but believed in being seen as just. He
possessed an uncanny sense of solving crimes. Zain ul Abdin was visibly
impartial particularly in sensitive matters of Hindu-Muslim relations.
The following episodes (cases) illustrate these claims:-
Zain-ul-Abdin (1420-1470) was not only
a far-sighted, impartial, able administrator and a reformer, but he exhibited
tremendous religious tolerance and possessed a keen sense of justice, often
not guided by any recorded book of law. Here is an example of how he administered
justice even when there was no evidence:
There lived a Brahmin in Kamraj, the lake
district. Once he lost a cow which he could not find for a long time, despite
sustained efforts. He lost all hopes. After four years, one day he accidently
found it with a resident of Maraj (dry district). The Brahmin claimed the
cow but the other man would not agree.
The Brahmin sought justice from various
officials, but failed to establish his claim. Ultimately, he approached
the King and petitioned for justice. The King did not dismiss the plea
of the Brahmin.
Zain-ul-Abdin summoned the alleged thief
to his presence and asked him to answer the Brahmin's charge. The man denied
the charge and said that the cow belonged to him and was with him ever
since its birth. But the Brahmin insisted. In order to test the veracity
of the accusation, the King threw some green waternuts before the cow and
its calf. The cow ate all of them with relish while the calf after some
snifs turned its head from them. This clearly proved that the cow while
with the Brahmin was accustomed to eating waternuts, a product of the Wular
Lake whereas the calf which had been brought up in Maraj district, was
totally unaccustomed to this sort of food. The King gave his verdict after
the thief had confessed his crime. The cow along with the calf was restored
to the rightful owner and the thief was suitably punished.
A holy ascetic from Mecca - a Saiyyid,
became jealous of a Hindu sadhu because of the latter's proximity to Sultan
Zain-ul-Abdin and consequent royal patronage he would receive. In a fit
of jealousy, the Saiyyid killed the sadhu. The matter was naturally taken
to the Sultan, the fountainhead of justice. He consulted prominent moulvis
and pundits. They all agreed that the only legitimate retribution was death.
The Saiyyid commanded respect for being from the Prophet's family. Sultan's
decision could have political fallout. Yet Sultan would not let go the
Saiyyid unpunished. Instead of killing the man, he decided to kill his
He ordered that the Saiyyid be seated on
a donkey, facing the tail, his head shaved and long beard soaked in dirt,
and paraded through the streets.
It is claimed that the Saiyyid was never
seen in that kingdom thereafter. Any lessons for the present!!