Part 1 | Was Rishisms an answer to Mullaism?

One representing simplicity and spirituality, the other hot-pursuit of wealth and prosperity
Part 1 | Was Rishisms an answer to Mullaism?
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Did Rishism grow up in medieval Kashmir parallel to Mawalism and Mullaism? Did it emerge as a challenge to these isms and their love for material progress through the route of religion? Was it really an antidote to their dissonant chorus of noises, pronouncements, brawling and vitriol? Or was it a silent spiritual intervention in their catholic, commanding demeanour, domineering character and exploitative manner that had rendered Kashmiris into peewee serfs of the medieval state with no outlet to give vent to their pent-up angst? Or was it a movement for reassertion of the original teachings of Islam and its Mamalat-principles?

These are some serious questions whose answers are crucial not only to the understanding of the most vital aspects of medieval Kashmir and its tryst with Islam but also to those of its facets that show us how Kashmir identity strived to negotiate the daunting zigzags and unyielding complexities stemming from the binary of these constructs (Rishisms and Mullaism), representing two streams of contrasting, but accommodating cultures: one representing simplicity and spirituality and the other hot-pursuit of wealth and prosperity.

To fathom adequately the subtleties of these thought processes, together with their nature of differences, and mutual accommodative capacities and assimilating capabilities, it is necessary to acquaint ourselves with the historical meliue that led to their cheek to cheek flowering in medieval Kashmir; and systematic diffusion over its vales and dales to shape the indigenous attitudinal patterns accordingly. Such an exercise will also help to place these templates in their proper perspective and appreciate the essence and significance of the Culture of Simple-living and the Culture of Conspicuous-consumption that characterize Kashmirian society like other societies since the days of yore.

Islam made its way into Kashmir through an intermediary propagating channel to transform its socio-economic system, and give it a novel apparatus of Sultanate. It reached through non-Arab, secondary source, called Mawalis (in the Arabic lexicon, denoting neo-Muslims) instead of the original, primary source, the Arabs. It ushered in the region an era of great changes that came to be distinctly marked by those traditions, beliefs, customs, transactions and institutions which for Islam had become logically unavoidable, and socio-politically absolutely necessary to imbibe/ assimilate/adopt from different cultures it had come into contact, in the course of its dissemination westwards from the Arabian Desert.

During its intercourse with Central Asian regions, it showed considerable flexibility in enduring the legacy of a powerful and complex agrarian culture. Accordingly under the most compelling circumstances, it agreed to shed its outer layer of desert culture to respond effectively to the complications associated with the life and times (Muamalat-e-zendagi) of Central Asia that were totally different to that obtaining in the place of its birth. The Civilizational encounter between the two was indeed very significant. It inspired them to base and develop their mutual relationship amicably on the principles of give and take. This posture of cultural reciprocity facilitated dialogue between the two, enabling them to understand each other's point of view and have insight into their experiences and institutions that reflected subsequently and perfectly in successful restructuring of their respective Muamalat strategies to suit their new demands and that of the Sultanate.

While Central Asia fervidly cooperated with Islam to incorporate its splendid principles in its socio-economic and religious system. Islam agreed with utmost earnestness to cater exclusively to its agrarian needs, providing, thus, what was required to resolve recurrent conflicts arising among: (i) the villagers over the distribution of irrigation waters and other land related issues, and (ii) between the handicraftsmen and their Karkhanadars over the latter's tendency to transcend their limits. It was indeed Islam's one more triumph in reconciling opposite views in a series of its historical examples of conflict-resolutions; the foremost being the one that occurred between Muslims and Jews in Medina during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh).

A civilization solely based on agriculture was more complex than that of the Arabs which had essentially grown amidst the sand dunes of Arabian Peninsula with its main thrust on trade, commerce and markets. Its elaborate agrarian system was thriving with inherent fertility of the lands of Mawara-i-Nahr and abundance of waters flowing through Darya-e-Amu (Oxus River), Darya-e-Zarafshan, Darya-e-Syr and their tributaries. Initially its complexity baffled the Arabs, confusing them immensely with the enormity of conflicts emanating from uneven distribution of irrigation waters, unmanned access to pastures for grazing animals, and unsettled land system and unorganized revenue collection.

To overcome these recurring problems, an elaborate bureaucacratic apparatus, and strong police force were built up by mutual counselling and consent. And to help the State prevent conflicts among various contenders, communities, groups, villages and regions, and defend the country against invaders, a large, well-trained and well-equipped military was maintained. Arrangements were also put in place bilaterally for the systematic water distribution and realization of revenue and other taxes imposed on trade and commerce. To bring industrial and commercial morality into the manufacturing units and marketing outlets, some effective steps were taken to reorganize the Karkhana system. Efforts were also made to organize mosques and Khankahs and charity houses in the regions. For imparting education to students a whole network of madrassas was established under the department of ilmiya. Opportunities for widening the scope of social justice and social mobility in the society were also stipulated.

This was the picture that Cental Asian Empire came to present after Islam settled permanently in the heart of its class-based Agrarian structure. Sultan was at the apex of the Society. He was Zel-e-Illahi who was assisted by wazirs, nobles, courtiers, governors, commanders, bureaucrats and ulma in ruling the country and discharging various duties, and enforcing Sharia laws throughout the empire.

Thus, it becomes abundantly clear that the prolonged contact between these mighty civilizations and among their multiple cultural patterns was a unique event in the history of Asiatic regions. It resulted in coalescing of cultures and modifying ways of life of the people living there. It was indeed a healthy cultural configuration and historic experience of great significance that integrated them meaningfully with a value system of immense consequences.

Lying in close proximity to these territories, Kashmir remained increasingly besieged with their noise, chaos and commotion. It was, therefore, overwhelmed by their historic transition. It underwent a profound change through acculturation that made its people an inalienable part of the unfolding phenomenon of Islamic Civilization. With the active cooperation and under the guidance of Central Asian traders, artisans and missionaries, Kashmir came to inhale the fresh air of transformation to embark on a new mission of spiritual and material advancement. A multiple resizing of concerns, concepts and perspectives took place within the bounds of a wonderful assortment of Central Asian options for social engineering, identity formation and image building.

Greater Kashmir