Much has already been written and said about the works and teachings of the two patron saints of Kashmir Sheikh Noorud Din Noori (RA) and Shiekh Hamza Makhdoom (RA). It is universally accepted that these two personalities promoted the doctrine of genuine mysticism and captured it in people’s hearts, called them to true religion and filled hearts with the light of monotheism, faith and devotion. If the first founded the local sect of the Reshi order, the second cultivated general Sufism. The two stood taller among the other mystical personalities of this land. It would not be wrong to say that all the mysticism of Kashmir revolved around the teachings of these two great personalities. The first lived in 14e century AD and founded the Reshi order of mysticism while the last lived in the 16e century AD and kept the true message of Sufism and its teachings. Simply put, we can say that the former struggled for the foundation and culture of Sufism called in local terms Reshiyeet, the latter protected and shielded mysticism from falling prey to non-Islamic teachings.
In fact, centuries have passed when these two great mystical personalities lived here, but the spirit of mysticism which they cultivated and promoted among the Kashmiris has by no means died out here in Kashmir. One can feel a decline in Sufi practices but not in its concept and spirit. Sufi centers and khanqahs established by these great saints always showcase the restlessness of his devotees. In fact, whenever Kashmir feels their pain and sorrow, they wholeheartedly rush to their khanqahs and shrines and share their pain with their beloved saints. Indeed, he also believes in the oneness of God, but considers the Sufis, the beloved saints of GOD, where he makes special prayers and seeks His blessings. These mystical saints, their works, their teachings and the Sufi miracles they performed in providing the healings to destitute Kashmiris at respective times are mentioned in more detail in the mystical and historical records of this land and there is almost nothing left to their subject which has not been explored so far. But here I would not repeat their works and teachings which have already been documented in the mainstream and Sufi literatures of this country, instead I would rather share here some other curious aspects related to these great personalities that people in general are barely aware.
Do you know that these saints were also mentioned in the numismatic registers of this land? Although during their lifetime they never enjoyed any sort of political or administrative patronage, yet they were posthumously recalled by the administrators of Kashmir, while affixing their respective names with their Sufi titles on Kashmir special numismatic issues. Archaeologists and numismatists have identified and deciphered many of these gold, silver and copper coins that were posthumously minted in the names of these two famous Kashmiri saints. These coins are very rare and belong to the period of the Durrani dynasty that ruled this land (1753-1891 AD). These coins are believed to have been minted either by Attah Mohammad Khan, a governor of Durrani, or by his master in Kabul Shah Shuja. These are couplet type coins, have a beautiful Persian couplet on the obverse which reads ‘Sika shud Roshan iz shaie Noor-u-din Reij Az Makhdoom Qutub-ul-Arifeen’ (meaning this coin has been lit by the rays of Noor -ud-Din and was struck by Makhdoom entitled Qutub-ul-Arifeen.). The couplet in layman’s terms is self-explanatory which means the Kashmir coinage shone with the rays of Shiekh Noor one din (RA), but this coinage was minted by Shiekh Hamza Makhdoom, who is inclined on the coins like Qutubul Arifeen (possibly means chief priest) In spiritual terms, this verse may make more sense, since I am not a Sufi follower or scholar, so I cannot understand its hidden meaning.
History records that the Mughals in Kashmir were followed by Durrani and it was in 1753 that Ahmad Shah Abdali brought Kashmir under the Afghan empire and he founded a dynasty known to historians as the Durrani dynasty. This dynasty ruled Kashmir for about sixty years, with its seat in Kabul. They appointed their respective governors to administer Kashmir. Ahmad Shah, Suliman Shah, Timur Shah, Zaman Shah, Mohammad Shah, Shah Shuja, Qasir Shah and Ayiub Shah were the famous emperors of Durrani dynasty. They issued their gold, silver and copper coins from their various mints and Kashmir also formed their permanent currency from where they issued their Kashmir coins with mint name Zarb-i- Kashmir. They had wonderful mints, with interesting couplets displayed on the obverses of their coins and the reverses of their coins mention the name of the mint with the date. The posthumous issues of Shiekh Hamza and Shiekh Noor din also carry the wonderful couplet describing the status of the two patron saints. The Shiekh Humza Makhdoomi was grown here as ‘Qutubul Arifeen’ which means Chief Priest. It is basically a Sufi status given to practicing saints, since I am no longer a Sufi and therefore cannot interpret the term in its proper meaning, but Sufis may know better.
Numismatic records suggest that WR Rodgers, a British numismatist, was the first to identify and decipher these posthumous issues during the 20e century. He deciphered many of these pieces and recorded them in his monumental book “The Catalog of the Punjab Museum in Lahore”; he has classified some of these pieces with their illustrations. Later, several other numismatists worked on these coins and documented them in their numismatic literatures. Mohammad Yousuf Taing, the famous scholar and cultural expert, also described these cashmere pieces in an issue of the Kashmir Encyclopedia published by the Academy of Art, Culture and Languages of Jammu and Kashmir. More recently, I have also classified in my book on numismatics, “Kashmir Coins”, such a silver coin which is kept in the numismatic collection of Srinagar Museum. These coins, according to numismatic records, are available in gold, silver and copper. A gold ‘Mohur’ (coin) weighing less than 335 grains has also been identified in the Punjab Museum Lahore. Silver coins denominated in rupees weighed less than 170 grains.
Those made of copper weighed less than 126 grains. The legends on these coins vary from series to series and on the copper coins the legend reads “Ya Sheikh Ya Makhdoom Jehan”. The reverse of these coins in the floral design field gives the name and date of the mint as Zarbi Kashmir. The coins are dated to the Hijra era and are dated between 1223 and 1228 AH, which corresponds to the Duranni period. These coins were minted at the Kashmir Mint which is said to have been set up somewhere near the Saraf kadal area in old Srinagar. Historical records suggest that Atta Muhammad Khan was appointed governor of Kashmir in 1804 by his master Shah Shuja in Kabul. Around 1808, it is learned that he revolted against the administration of Kabul and declared himself the independent king of Kashmir and to obtain the public mandate, Khan abandoned the tradition of placing the name of the emperor on his coins. and chose to mint coins in the name of these famous Kashmir Sufi saints. There are a number of copper coins of this series found in various Indian and Pakistani museums. The SPS Museum in Srinagar, in its numismatic collections, also housed several of these silver and copper coins. These posthumous numismatic issues of these saints clearly testify to their popularity among the local people of Kashmir.
(The author is an archaeologist and author on Kashmir archeology and numismatics. Email: [email protected])